Summer Sabbatical

Image courtesy Steve (cc) Flickr

Image courtesy Steve (cc) Flickr

I know what you’re thinking. It’s mid-October, so why I am I talking about summer? Well, here in Los Angeles, the last of the summer heat has just broken, and proper fall is just now beginning. Everything is pumpkin-spiced and crisp, and the 60-degree overnight lows keep us indoors–so what better time to reflect on the last few months?

At the start of the summer, I outlined a plan to turn my full-time-writer summer into a very productive period. Did it work? For the most part, yes. I think we always wish for more hours in the day and more creative output at the end of it. There are projects I didn’t quite finish and others that didn’t turn out quite as planned.

I finished my novel draft. Another pass awaits. I worked on more short stories (though not the ones I’d planned to work on!). I wrote some comic scripts and TV ideas. I drew more. I tried different schedules to divide up my day. I got more exercise. I raised my keyboard and stood at my desk while I worked.

These were all radical departures from my usual process of writing in the morning and working during the day. Of course, it can be terrifying to untether yourself from routine, from the safety and comfort of ritual. Some creatives work best when they focus on only one project at a time. Others when time and other factors are rigidly structured.

But (mostly) on the other side of my Summer Sabbatical, I’ve discovered the time to play in other forms, to (re)create myself in other ways, has been a wonderful experience. I’ve gained some confidence as a writer and creative, and it’s also been a lot of fun!

This luxury of time came with a hefty price tag — long periods of unemployment aren’t exactly ideal — but there are some ways you might take a sabbatical from your routine, even when you can’t make big changes.

routine

image courtesy Joy Kirr (cc), Flickr

 1. Change the Time of Day You Create. If you can, try writing in the morning (if you usually write in the evening) and vice versa. Work at both times if you don’t already. Work on the same project, or use the other time slot for a different sort of project. The experimental one.

image courtesy Horia Varlan (cc)

image courtesy Horia Varlan (cc), Flickr

2. Experiment. As writers, we’re probably doing this already — playing with form and POVs and structure, etc. Try going way outside your comfort zone. Work on comic scripts. Draw comics. Write poetry, or mysteries, or flash fiction. Write some erotica. Draw some erotica!

image Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi (cc) Flickr

image Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi (cc) Flickr

 3. Accept That It’s Okay When Something Isn’t Working. I’m a big believer in finishing things. But personally speaking, if I’ve been grinding on a project too hard, it’s better to take a break and step away before I burn out. This applies to changes in routine, too. If writing in the morning just doesn’t work for you, then go back to your evening schedule. If you discover you still hate writing screenplays, then find another alternative to your fiction routine. This Sabbatical is about finding the things you love. And if you discover at the end of it that what you really love is writing fiction (or drawing comics, or painting portraits, or developing TV pilots) — then at least you’ve explored your artistic options.

And that’s always a great thing.

So. We’re coming up on the holidays (faster every year, I’ve noticed). Our routines are going to be squashed and stretched by the demands of parties and the obligations of fun and general chaos of celebrations. So while things are a little topsy-turvy, maybe it’s a good time to try something new?
Let me know what you think.

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