This morning over at 10 Minute Novelists a writer asked about how she can get out of the motivationless humdrum she’s in and lamented that it’s been nine days since she’s written.
Can you imagine the horror?
I’m not mocking her. Believe me, I can feel her pain. Not writing is tough. Even tougher than writing.
But think about it, she’s on a nine day hiatus. According to this writer she knows what her story is about and she knows where it’s going. Both are really great things for a writer.
She’s just not “feeling it” as my teenage daughter would say. And she’s seeking advice from other like-minded individuals to find out how she can get out of this funk.
I offered the suggestions that have worked for me:
Engage in a different creative endeavor. (I recently took a weekend sewing class that got my creative juices flowing again.)
Then I dared to say something a little off the cuff:
Embrace the fact that your mind and body want to take a break.
Shocking, I know.
The fact that this concept of writers taking a break is so strange got me thinking –why are writers afraid to take a break? Do you know of any other profession (yes, writing can be more than a hobby) in which society tells people: DO NOT TAKE A BREAK?
My day job is in Health Informatics –we accrue paid time off (PTO) weekly.
My husband works in the airline industry –he gets vacation time and sick time.
My son works in Human Resources –yep, he gets PTO as well.
Nurses work on a weekly rotation.
I know several doctors who take vacations annually and they aren’t lounging on the beach while providing medical care.
Teachers get spring break, winter break, and summers off.
Daycares close for holidays.
Waiters and waitresses don’t work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Yet writers are constantly discouraged from ever taking a break.
Develop a daily writing habit, we’re told.
Don’t wait for the muse to show up, they say.
Write even if you don’t want to, they tell us.
All good advice, believe me. Shoot, I’ve given this very advice to other writers. I believe it to my core.
Yet I also want to believe that we, as writers, can enjoy some time off. That we can take a vacation from our vocation.
And not feel guilty for it.
And not feel like a non-writer for it.
And enjoy it.
Yes, some writers will tell you that not writing is worse than writing through the motivationless humdrum time. Even I will tell you that.
Because it’s true. Writing is fun. Writing is cleansing. Writing is healing.
So is taking a break.
The feel of the sun on your face. The sound of the ocean. The joy of engaging in other activities. All of these things are fun and cleansing and healing too.
So, if you’re a writer, I challenge you to embrace taking a break when your mind and body tell you it needs one. Don’t worry that you won’t go back to writing, because we all know that if you’re a writer, you will.
The feel of a pen or the keyboard will beckon you (typically at night after you’ve tucked yourself in for a good night’s sleep) and the characters of your imagination will speak to you until you listen. The perfect plot twist will present itself and you’ll soon find yourself hunched over your makeshift desk snapping your fingers for a refill of coffee while you ignore the world around you in order to get. Those. Words. On. Paper.
And when that happens, embrace it too. After all, you’re a writer and that’s what we do.
This morning I alternated writing with perusing Facebook. I'm currently on hiatus from school (less than a month before getting back to the grind!) and have been trying to enjoy this academically imposed break from working on my novel. For the most part, it's going well, but occasionally I do find myself rather irritable when little writing is happening.
Anyway, as I was scrolling through Facebook I came across the #MondayBlogs thread over at 10MinuteNovelists -my favorite group of novelists. Have you heard of them? Us? It's a joy to be part of this international bunch of time crunched writers -recently recognized in Writer's Digest.
I was checking out the blog previews and the first one caught my eye. It was an entry by Lauren Green called Countdown. Here it is for your reading pleasure. In it, she talks about her current endeavor to run a marathon with her sisters and her son's recent musings on quitting gymnastics. Then, she ties it all together with her writing.
And just like that, I felt like I'd gotten up at 0-dark-o'clock and was hit by a two-by-four.
I'm a writer. And while I've been writing a little bit, my drive is a bit off. Have you heard this before? From me even? Of course you have. The few times I've blogged in the last year I've whined and complained about writing. When I wasn't doing that, I determined (yet again) to get my butt in the chair and focus.
All with little results.
The return on my investment has been small.
Because my investment has been small.
Yesterday, my daughter and husband and I were standing around the kitchen island catching up on each other's day before heading off to bed. Out of nowhere my daughter asked: Have you sold a book, Mom?
I casually said no but that I did know someone had bought my book this month.
That wasn't good enough for her.
"But have you sold one? You went to the store today. Did you take one with you to sell? Are you in Barnes and Noble yet? What other bookstores are you in?"
I managed to deter her and went to bed thinking little else about her inquisition. This morning, I got up, got a cup of coffee, and started writing on a short story piece that came to me the other night -pleased with the fact that I was writing at all.
And then Lauren Green showed up with her quitting blog post. When you read something like that and can relate to vividly with it, you start asking yourself all kinds of questions:
Am I quitting? If I'm not giving my [writing] hobby/talent/passion 100% every day, what's stopping me? I don't tend to think of myself as a quitter, but this sure feels like quitting. Is it because the projects I've got on my plate are too hard? Have I stopped loving this writing journey?
Honestly, I don't know what's stopping me. I love writing and I love the projects I'm working on. They are challenging, but I usually enjoy a good challenge. The break I'm on is a good thing for me and I'm glad I have it, but my lackadaisical attitude toward writing has been going on longer than that.
The fear of success has always been difficult for me. I don't know what to do with success (defined however you'd like to define it). Success was not something you were supposed to strive for or achieve or enjoy where I come from. But that's a fear I need to face and get over.
My bigger fear should be not getting there.
I see other author friends of mine talking about their goals and how close they are to meeting them. I see some folks cramming writing into every spare second of their day -enough to crank out book series. Good ones too. Not some poorly edited e-book that a reader spends more time fixing typos than enjoying reading. And I get a frustrated and mentally whine "I wish I had that much time to write."
Yet the truth is -I do have that much time to write. I'm just not using it well. And that's what I need to change.
I realize you've heard this before. Even I'm tired of hearing it. Shall we plan to make changes together? What project do you need to work on? What activity do you need to keep pursuing? How can we help each other not quit?