There was this trend not so long ago. Whenever writers were asked for advice, the first thing they’d offer was to “write everyday”. I can think of one or two who even went as far as to suggest that if you weren’t writing everyday, then you couldn’t call yourself a writer. To some, it felt like the sort of brutally honest, tough love that some of us need to get our rumps in gear and get words on the page at any cost.
Personally, I think it’s bullshit.
Recently, amidst a flurry of rejections and rewrites and revision (which, I might add, are all not writing parts of the writing process and just as important as the writing itself), I felt so burned out that it was a fight to get myself in front of the computer at all. I couldn’t even muster up the enthusiasm for my RP writing, which is my sacred ‘me’ activity. Everything I put on the page, whether digitally or with pen and paper frustrated me to tears. I looked at my list of things to do: edits and resubmissions and drafting and outlines and more submissions. For days it felt insurmountable. Even worse, I didn’t want to do any of it. It wasn’t a matter of discipline; I was in front of the computer with Scrivener staring me in the face. Yet, even though I never believed that you had to write every day to be a writer, I was honestly despairing because I wasn’t writing at all.
So I stepped back.
I couldn’t force myself to write, so I did not. I closed all my documents. I shut down all the browser pages with RP posts in them. I shunned my email (mostly). I got me a potentially obscene amount of washi tape and spent the day decorating all my writing notebooks and journals.
It wasn’t anything impressive or groundbreaking. I was literally putting tape on pages and binder clips. But I was still creating. I was flexing my imagination and occupying my hands, and it felt good. Really good.
And you know what? While I was doing this, my mind was turning over the different stories I was beating my head against. As I flipped through my notes and colour coded my pages (shut up!) I got to see all the stories and characters and worlds that I’ve made, and see how far each of those has come (or where they stopped to wait their turn again!).
Now, I tend to become hyperfixated on tasks (THANKS BIPOLAR! THANKS OCD!), so I had to take the usual precautions to ensure I came up for air and did things like pee and eat and hydrate (PS: My husband is amazing). I do that when I’m writing, too. My point is that by the end of the day, I wanted to write. I couldn’t wait to get back at it!
I made myself wait the whole day. Instead of RPwriting that night after dinner I started playing Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee (my first Pokémon game!). Once I got my beautiful, majestic Magikarp, I was hooked. I started dividing my nights into shorter bursts of writing and then some Pokémon. Or reading. Or anything that is not writing.
I decided that perhaps I should make a point to do this regularly. Dividing my evening recreation time is a simple matter of discipline (Yes! You need discipline to remember to enjoy things!), but taking a creative day just for me is something I am going to have to work to make a habit.
I did it again last night.
And it makes me happy to get back to writing.
You don’t have to do arts and crafts, but you need to do something. It’s good to take a step back and get away from your stories. Give your brain time to passively work them over. Engage other brainmeats. Set aside time to do something that isn’t writing, and isn’t for anyone else but you. I think it’s too easy for us to get caught up believing that it’s selfish to do that, but we need to remember that being selfish isn’t always a bad thing, done in moderation. When you made your hobby a job, you accidentally took the leisure out of it. So find something–reading comics or baking–that is just for you and is not writing (even personal writing like fanfic!). Give yourself a little time to miss your stories, and maybe, like me, you’ll find yourself excited to get back to the keyboard.