Friday, April 17, 2015

Rest Breaks for Book Writers--When Are They Procrastination and When Are They Required?

This week I'm taking a rest break from my book.  I'm still thinking about it, still mulling over its many problems, but I have recognized some important signs of burn-out that I need to attend to.  I've begun pushing rather than listening.  I have a more-than-usually-overactive Inner Critic.  And occasionally, a feeling of the blues about my work will creep in. 

It's been one intense winter here in New England.  April rolled in with deep depletion and a longing for green grass and sunshine.  I felt drained in every part of me.  First step was finding a place to recuperate--so I lucked out with an airbnb house on an island in Florida for a week with my family. 

Of course, I brought my book with me.  I thought I'd spend each day on it.  Ha!  What actually happened was this:  beach walks, painting, sleeping, eating, and more beach walks.  Not a whole lot of writing.   

We push ourselves so hard.  We work, we parent, we partner, and we try to write our books.  It's all good.  But there can be a break, can't there?  When it your feeling of "nothing left to give" just procrastination and avoiding hard work that will take you from breakdown to breakthrough--and when it is a sign your writing actually wants you to take a break?

Crying jags often accompany this, for me.  I start wondering where I've lost myself.  This isn't the sign of depression, at least for me, it's a creative emptiness. 

Julia Cameron in the much-loved guidebook, The Artist's Way, suggests a weekly artist's date to keep in touch with ourselves, to not get to this lost place.  And I can usually honor that.  But sometimes life shoots us too much too fast--maybe a death in the family, a change of homes, loss of job, even good things like marriage and buying a house.  Everything takes energy and time.  What gives?

In the realm of manifestation and creativity, I had been stretched to the max these past months of winter.  I didn't know any other gear to drive than Intense.  I didn't know how to get back to the "necessary boredom" that Dorothy Allison talks about, the place where my own creativity bubbles up.

Jennifer Louden writes in The Woman's Retreat Book "If there is one cosmic law I know the consequences of ignoring, it is this one:  you cannot create from an empty well."

Tomorrow we fly home from our island vacation.  I'm sunburned and sleepy inside, but new ideas are bubbling up.  My manuscript which has been ignored all week is starting to interest me again. 

It always happens:  As I began to fill up again, with long hours staring at the ocean or painting the sky, new ideas have started coming in.  An idea of how to solve that sticky plot problem, a place to get information I need.  An enthusiasm for my writing that I thought I'd lost forever.

This Week's Writing Exercise 
1.  Take stock.  Do you need to feed the artist?  Is she or he starving from too much output and not enough input these past busy months?

2.  If the answer is yes, can you carve out time for a rest break?  Even five hours in a day when nothing is needed of you is amazing and precious.

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