On Not Writing04:54
Happy belated 4th of July WEbook nation. I hope you all had a good long weekend (or, hopefully, are still on vacation reading this from a lounger somewhere). I spent the holiday on Cape Cod with family and friends as I do every year. It was a bit more special this time around because I hadn’t seen many of them in a while.
Still, I was conflicted. I’ve got about 100 pages left in the final proofread of my novel—the one I started nearly four years ago. To say that I’m close to the end would be the mother of all understatements. Throughout the weekend I debated getting up early, staying up late, or stealing an hour or two here and there to chip away at the last of my manuscript. Ultimately, I didn’t do any of these thigns, and I’m happier for it. I feel refreshed and energized and heard some amazing stories.
It got me thinking: when is it good to take a break from writing? When is it necessary?
I tend to work in sustained bursts. Schedule and budget permitting, I’ll hammer away eight- to ten-hours-a-day, six days a week for a couple months until a draft is done. Then I’ll take a break, return to paying work and generally scramble to pick up all the balls that fell to earth while I single-mindedly pursued my goal. When I finish a draft or a manuscript, I’m usually spent and need to do other things just to get my head back into life. Sometimes I won’t write for weeks afterwards, at least not creatively. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I need to read, re-charge, wait for new ideas to arrive.
My long-range plan is to transition to a more sane writing schedule. I’d like to write every day, but not with such a manic focus. I’d like to consistently produce without having to hurl myself at a particular project because I have only a small window (and savings) to do it that way. I’d like to be a bestselling author with time to burn on my next project. (I would also like to see the Cubs win the World Series, the oil spill in the Gulf to end, and Lady Gaga to chill out, but alas…)
Every time I get a break from my writing—forced or otherwise—I don’t realize how much I need it until it happens. Even if it’s just for a few days, I feel like I come back stronger, and my writing is better for it. Also it’s summer here on the east coast and therefore weekends and holidays are no time to be cooped up inside absorbing the glow of a computer screen. (I say this while currently absorbing said glow, sadly.) And yet the guests are all gone and my family is doing other things today. So I’ll probably work. I have only 100 pages left to edit. I’m close, very close…
This week’s question: When do you take a break from your writing, why and how does it help?