Wednesday, August 29, 2012

When Something Needs To Give...

So Hellie wrote an awesome post on Commitment on Monday and here I am about to lay it all out there and be honest that my commitment has disappeared the past 2 weeks. 

I haven't written a single word in a little over a week. 

Sigh. My life is always crazy, but recently I knew something had to give. If it didn't, then my brain was seriously going to short circuit. I was putting too much pressure on myself. There's a difference between challenging yourself and pushing yourself to the next level and just plan out expecting the impossible. 

So, I found myself taking a break from writing. Everyday I was berating myself for not sitting down to write and in turn, was making myself feel miserable. Like I was a horrible person who would never, ever reach my goals. 

A week later, and I feel recharged. Refreshed. And those ideas for the new book I was struggling with? They've suddenly started falling into place without me even thinking about them specifically. 

So I ask you, do you take complete mental breaks from your WIP and writing every now and then? Do you feel guilty when you do, or do you discover as I did that it renews your fire and passion for your story? 

I'm hoping to use this holiday weekend to kick-start myself back into the groove and I'm honestly  proud of myself for the time I gave my mind off. I needed that time to give my self-confidence both a break and some much needed relief from putting too much pressure on myself. 

Would it scare you to totally step away for a week? To not even spend time thinking of your writing?

I literally gave myself a pass to completely forget about it and man, it's been one of the best exercises for me. I feel full of a new energy for writing. Like it's proven to me that I'll be okay if I don't write everyday. That it doesn't make me a failure, that there is always another day to write. The idea is to recharge and then charge forward. Just don't let one week turn into two and then three. :) 

Anyone out there had any experience with this? Ever felt better after a REAL break from writing? Or did the guilt become too much to bear. Are you holding yourself to too high of a standard everyday or is it the writing everyday that gives you that high? I'm learning there's no right or wrong way! 

12 comments:

MsHellion said...

I feel so much guilt that there must be a Jewish ancestor in my family tree. :)

But there was about 2 years or so of me not writing. Or writing in tiny spurts and ignoring it weeks at a time. I'm not sure if I PURPOSELY ignored writing. I think I just sullenly knew I didn't feel like writing and felt guilty about it...like a loser who'd never achieve her goals. So instead of refreshing the well and using the time-out for good, it just made everything worse.

It's really really hard not to think of this as a race.

If one chooses to be a writer, one should call a therapist first thing to set up weekly appointments, because God know you're going to need them.

Sabrina Shields said...

LOL Hellie. Yes.

I can totally understand how taking a longer break would make everything worse. I took about 6 months off when I first started and it was horrible. Constant feelings of "I'm never going to be a writer."

This time, I don't have that at all and I think it speaks to how I've grown as a writer. Of course, that could just be wishful thinking!

MsHellion said...

If there's one thing I've learned from the Bo'sun, it's that if you discover something positive in writing and yourself that affirms you--never second guess it. Just enjoy it and nurture that thought. *LOL*

So, no, it's NOT wishful thinking.

Janga said...

Since almost everyone who gives advice on the importance of writing every day and I have never been able to write every day for an exyended period, guilt used to be a chronic condition for me. But in January 2010, when Lauren Willig was a guest on Word Wenches, she referred to herself as a "fits-and-starts writer." I felt as if her comments validated my process which inevitably seemed to require days or even weeks off when family and/or professional concerns demanded my time. I envy people who can write in small increments of time. I need huge blocks to accomplish anytrhing significant. I copied Willig's words, and I go back and reread them when I've gone several days without writing and start feeling guilty.

Here's the quote (a long one):

Time management is one of those things I still wrestle with, but I think what it comes down to in the end is being aware of your own work patterns. When I started at the law firm, people gave me all sorts of earnest and well-meaning advice about waking up early every morning and writing for two hours a day. Two problems: (1) my brain refuses to kick in until sometime after noon, and (2) I am incapable of writing in two hour chunks. I made myself miserable for about a month, wrote the worst prose I’ve ever produced (and, yes, that includes the imitation Barbara Taylor Bradford novel I tried to write in eleventh grade) and then came to the blinding realization that, hey, I’m a fits-and-starts writer; I’ve always been a fits-and-starts writer. Therefore, I was better off giving up on the two hour a day plan and locking myself up at home on weekends when I could write for forty-eight hours straight. Learning how you work most productively and finding creative ways to implement that around your other obligations—without beating yourself up about what you could, would, should be doing—is about fifty per cent of the battle.

All that being said, it’s also important to remember that we write fiction. At some point, tempting as it is to track down just that one last detail, you have to press the “off” button on the research, sit down with that empty Word file, and just write.

--Lauren Willig

Sabrina Shields said...

Janga - thank you. Sincerely that quote in so helpful to me.

*light bulb moment*

TerriOsburn said...

I haven't written a word in more than a week but I'm always thinking about the story. Not sure I feel guilty but I'm more irritated with myself because I know I NEED to get these words on the page. However, I've reached a point when I know once I'm back in the groove, I'll be good.

Used to be I didn't know I had a groove. Or how to find it. But now I have faith in the groove. A couple hours a night is all I need and the pages should start churning out again.

Starting tonight. Really. I mean it. *points at herself* No excuses.

Sabrina Shields said...

You'll do it Terri!

This time when I took the break, I also took a break from that feeling of "needing" to write. The pressure of that word. It was very freeing and also inspiring at the same time. Hard to explain.

But, I totally understand that feeling and now, after time off, I feel the "need" to write, but just with less pressure and more excitement!

P. Kirby said...

While it sounds good in theory, an all-out break probably wouldn't work for me. In order to accomplish anything, I need to make it a habit, and it's sooo easy for "not-writing" to become a habit.

OTOH, I have a liberal definition of writing. I.e. updating my blog, or writing a fan fic count as writing.

The fits-and-starts thing resonates with me, because I really need to be in the mood and in my characters to get much done.

Maureen said...

Great advice, Janga! I have to keep that in mind...

Have I ever stopped to lengths of time and felt good about it? No. I really, really, really, really wish I could say yes. I'd like to work on saying yes and someday, I can hopefully say yes to that question.

I think a forced sabatical is exactly what is going on with me and I hope I rise from this with a new schedule that I can realistically meet and a fresh vigor for getting those stories out of me...

Now, when I did take breaks, purposefully, I don't think what I felt about it was guilt...I don't think I feel guilt now. I feel fear. And that is always what is paramount when I don't write for an extended length of time.

Fear that I no longer can write, period.

I'm just a nice big ball of insecurity! And I do see a therapist regularly! Not weekly, but a few times a month!

Sabrina Shields said...

Ah Chance - Fear is a powerful thing isn't it. The mind loves to play tricks on us.

Just keep understanding, you don't ever lose the ability to write. Ever. It's just the stories and ideas that chance. But the writing ability will always be with you.

Kestrel said...

I always feel guilty when I don't write, but it's just like trying to figure out any problem, sometimes if you give yourself a break, the solution presents itself like magic.
I find my best inspiration sometimes occurs in my dreams, and I have a journal by my bed and do my best to jot things down in it, even if they don't make sense at the moment, the longer my brain stays idle, a brand new scene develops and I can write again.

Maureen said...

Ah, Sabrina...I want to be fearless again. I had a few years of it and I want it back...

But I like the idea that the writing ability will always be with me...like the Force. ;-)