(I have to thank the wonderful Diana Rowland for the inspiration to write this post!)
“Bugs the crap out of me when I see someone spout the “if you don’t write every day you’re not really a writer.” ~Rowland
I saw Diana’s tweets on this subject yesterday, and wanted to throw my fist up and shout ‘yes!’. Back in the long ago days when I actually WROTE on a regular basis, that quote headlined every writing advice post I read. That was back when I had all sorts of world-building charts and questionnaires and Debated About First Person Vs Third with Great Seriousness on Official Writing Forums. At that point, you could probably have told me that standing on my head would get me published, and gotten instant obedience.
So, I wrote every. damn. day. I lost sleep, turned down social events, developed a cocoon, and generally Just Wrote.
I wrote 4 novel drafts, over 50 short or flash stories, and a crap-ton of blog and forum posts. I added it all up at one point (minus forum posts and most blogs) and had over 300,000 words, about a year before that pace caught up with me.
I burned out HARD.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and I love that I get to do it for a living. But taking weekends off keeps me sane. Saner. Sane-ish.” ~Rowland
Life gets pretty busy for the normal person: Work, kids, relationships, social events. As writers/editors/publishing folk, most of us have those things PLUS our chosen second business. The concept of free time can seem a bit laughable when deadlines are bearing down. Even your own deadlines can start being overwhelming. It seems counter-intuitive to take time off, to walk away from your writing to do ‘unproductive’ things, especially when you’re super-busy.
The last couple of weeks have been THAT busy for me. 18, 21 and 43 hour days-busy. And that was with putting things on hold. The sheer stress of it was ridiculous. So, I made plans to see SuckerPunch with some friends. My mother asked why I was taking time out when I literally didn’t have enough time to sleep.
“I need to get away from everything I can’t get done. I’m going in circles, and I’m not going to get anything done if I stay here.”
Dinner, a movie, some time with people I don’t see often enough. It was better than sleep. It gave me an entirely different sort of energy, redirected my angst in a positive direction, and let me get a grasp on what was really necessary to be worrying about.
It’s hard to admit that we can’t handle stress, and that our batteries do run out. We’re taught that reward comes after everything is done. But if I waited ’til everything was done, I’d never do anything for myself. I’m a workaholic. I’d hazard a guess that a good number of writers, editors, agents, publishers and publicists are in the same boat.
Sanity is in short supply as it is, and sleep-deprivation, bad reviews, line edits and running out of coffee don’t contribute to the sanity bank. Balance. Decompress. But do it wisely. Balance progress with decompression. Take a vacation from writing until you feel the words building up and threatening to just take a hammer to your mind. Soak in the tub with a good novel and a glass of wine/beer/tea. Go out with friends to a nature preserve, an aquarium or a Smithsonian exhibit. Breathe. Take a stack of papers, toss them into the air, cackle like a mad scientist, and then get back to work.
Go on, take a break. Refill the sanity bank a bit. Your writing, your family, your friends and your poor, abused head will thank you for it.