Since I posted off my novel extract to be judged in a competition on Monday, I haven’t really been doing any writing. I am feeling quite tired, truth be told. I’ve spent the best part of six weeks refining 5,000 words of my novel, creating a synopsis and crafting a mini-biography and I think my brain just needs some rest.
Yet, while I’m resting I’m also thinking. It’s taken me this long to get two chapters into my re-writing of the novel and I’ve got a long way to go. Can I really afford to sit back and relax when there is still so much more to do?
I suspect a lot of writers feel like this on a fairly regular basis, especially those of us who are writing between our ‘regular’ job and who are still in the early stages of hoping to make it into a career. We’re used to spending any spare time we have writing, or at least learning more about our craft. If we’re not writing, we’re plotting, or reading or spending time building our platforms on social media in anticipation of both helping others and making it to published status.
It is said that a writer never really gets a holiday and this comic by Writer Unboxed contributor Debbi Ohi sums up exactly why this might be. We never switch off our brains; somewhere, even if not consciously, we are always thinking about our characters, their stories and potential ideas that we could use in our writing. So, even though I’m not physically writing any fiction, I’m still ‘writing’ in my head – considering what Madeline might say in my next scene, how Dr Whalley will drop in that her ‘sister’ might have called. It’s exhausting. And, even if I do try and escape it by reading something else to distract me I, too, have those moments like the blonde in the hat that Debbie has drawn…and wonder why it is my submitted stories fall short when something so mediocre is published.
*sigh* The life of a writer can be very tough. However, it’s also a lot of fun so I have nothing to complain about. I simply need to acknowledge that I need some time out, a rest from the constant tapping of the keyboard and the bright white screen. I need to go on recharge for a little while and build up another buffer of energy to take me into the next round of rewrites. Hopefully these ones will be quicker – as I don’t have to make them absolutely perfect the first time around.
Fortunately, I have a well-timed opportunity for this coming up. On Sunday my partner and I are going away for a couple of days; the place we are going has spa facilities (hello jacuzzi!) and isn’t far from the picturesque coastal town of Morecombe. Hopefully the time away from my typical writing environment (aka home) should help me distance myself from my writing and distract me enough to keep my mind focused on me and my needs, rather than my characters’ needs!
It’s been a challenging two months preparing for the competition submission, most especially because I put my own writing under the microscope and examined the nitty gritty of my own words. I’ve possibly been a little too harsh on myself, which would explain why I need some distance right now, but I think it’s important to know that I can do it; that I’m able to objectively pull apart my writing and build it back up again to be the best it can be. It just so happens that, because I’ve not experienced this process so intensively before, it’s taken it’s toll on my analytic and creative mind.
It’s equally important to remember the strain writing, editing and rewriting can have on us as individuals and to step back from this occasionally to acknowledge that we need a break. The only reason I have developed the understanding that allows me to do this is because of one piece of advice that I now routinely turn to whenever I am feeling frazzled, challenged or a little down:
Treat yourself like your own best friend.
What advice would you give them if they were in your shoes?
Now listen to yourself and take that advice.
It’s useful to take to heart this piece of advice and to remind yourself of it whenever you can. It’s helped improve my life a lot, just by making me realise the expectations I put upon myself (but not others), how critical I can be of myself (but not others) and how hard I push myself (but not others). If my best friend were doing that to herself I’d have to give her a quick shake to tell her to cut it out – why should it be any different for us?
So I’m taking my break and I’m not going to feel guilty for it. Sure, there will be moments that I slip and my writing brain is suddenly sparked (I’ve already got an idea for my next NaNoWriMo novel!), but there will also be moments when I can just enjoy the time I’m taking to rest and accept that, for right now, it’s just what I need.