The answer came through the random comment from a friend. You need time off to refill the well.
The ironies upon ironies I’m faced with now are shocking. Not only have many friends and loved ones made similar statements, but didn’t I write a post with the same friggen message? The answer is yes. Yes, I did.
If you have no idea what I mean, I went off on a tangent about the glass, and the argument over it being half empty or half full. Here’s a spoiler, I don’t support either of those opinions. It’s still one of my most popular posts over on the Couch, and still one of my personal favourites too.
Apparently, I just didn’t want to take my own advice.
I don’t like time off from writing. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t even believe in writer’s block. Sure, some days don’t offer as many words as others. I’ve always found that those days are made for revising. Or rereading. Or plotting (not that I’m a master in that department). Or working on maps and character sketches. And if all of the above fails, word-free days are for reading, or learning about the craft of writing.
There’s always something to be done, but people often tend to tell writers that ‘taking a day off won’t kill you’. Writing isn’t a real job, after all. Just give me a moment to shout profanities at the walls, because so help me… Writing can be a career. And I’m working my ass off to make it mine.
I see it this way, if an employee takes random days off work, because he doesn’t feel inspired to do his job, he might get away with it a time or two. But at some point, his boss is going to fire his ass because, you know, it doesn’t work that way. Punny.
If I keep taking days off, my novel won’t ever be finished. That may not sound like much to you, but it’s incredibly important to me.
No, I don’t pretend I’m the Next Big Thing. Hell, I don’t even know if I want to be the Next Big Thing! I want to tell a story that will resound with like-minded people. I don’t need millions for that, though I’m not lying, it would be great. 🙂
I just want my story out there. That’s all.
And that’s why I write into the small hours of the night. That’s why I can’t sleep, because my characters keep me awake. It’s why I’m distracted when we talk, when I blog, because something is calling me back to my manuscript. It’s an addiction, make no mistake.
So, the ten-week-thing happened, the longest break I’ve had from writing since I started.
Nobody was as hard on me over this as I was. In fact, most of the folks I love reckoned the break was OK, with the exception of my cousins who were either whip-cracking or building pyramids and doing pompom-shaking backflips.
“You’re burnt out and need a moment away from it all.”
I didn’t agree, but couldn’t get myself as far as even opening the damn document. This is where the lesson comes in.
The first revelation – I made it worse.
I now know that beating myself up over not writing was a massive part of the problem. Yes, my mental state, anxiety and general circumstances were what started it all, I won’t belittle what I feel. But I also realise that being so hard on myself sapped what little will to work I had left, and turned it into fuel for my angst, which worsened the feeling of pointlessness. Most of us are our own worst enemies, but maybe we should try to wave the white flag and sheathe our weapons. #notastrollinthepark
The second revelation – everybody needs a break.
It’s so stupid, but I’ve never given myself credit for how hard I work (this isn’t to toot my own horn, BTW – I told you, I’m addicted). Weekends mean nothing to me. Public holidays? Who cares? The holiday season sees me in front of the computer, still working. Friends and loved ones take vacations from work, so why shouldn’t I do the same? I needed it.
And that’s the third revelation – I needed the break.
I’ve written over 21,000 words since I publicly said I was coming back to complete my innings at the end of May. That’s three weeks. Inspiration for the novel has been overflowing and it refuses to be contained. More than that, though, the passion I had for this project – that feeling of ecstasy when I worked or talked about it – it’s back. Writing thrills me again! Doesn’t that make all of the shit from the ten-week break worth it?
I believe it does.
The Point. If you find yourself stuck at the crossroads, without any clue how to go on, never mind where to go next – don’t be so hard on yourself. Sometimes, you need time to find your path again. But. If you’ve been dawdling at the side of the road for too long, while you really know in which direction your destination is (like I was at the end), commit to start walking again. You might be surprised to find your feet had been itching to go and remember how to run.
Have a good weekend.