Stop and Have Some Fun: Avoiding Burnout and Unnecessary Stress

2014-03-22 22.39.37So I have a not-so-secret secret for you: too much nose to the grindstone with zero fun makes you crazy.

Yes, I know, not exactly genius. But you’d think it was. I’ve been pushing really hard to get a book ready in time for conference. Like crazy-time pushing, meaning I didn’t even take the weekend off. Every day meant thousands of words, either writing them, deleting them, or a bit of both. Which is fine, for a little while. But as my mind narrowed too much on the story, and all I could see were the two remaining chapters that weren’t working, what it translated to was me seeing the entire manuscript as not working.

Seriously, on Friday last week I almost would have printed out the entire manuscript just to start it on fire. This is not a healthy approach to my work.

So I took the weekend off. And I stewed on Friday and Saturday, felt generally miserable even as I started to play up in the craft room (I’ll post on my other blog, Craft Room Chronicles, what I was up to). And then Saturday night I decided yet again not to work, even on the critiques I owe my partners (Friday night is critique night in my world). Instead I watched the first Harry Potter movie, with all of those actors so young, just kids, and the beautiful sets that beg you to recreate them in miniature.

And suddenly I felt a lot better. The rest of the nonsense I’d been worrying about, all sorts of things I have absolutely no control over, that evaporated. Today I could go back to writing, and while completing a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, I could actually see maybe the book was, gasp, not terrible!

So again with my not-so-genius advice, which I’m ashamed to say both my husband and best friend advised (and I duly ignored and denied). Take a break. Have some fun. Your brain and mental outlook will thank you. It’s a bright beautiful world out there, and sometimes we just need a change of perspective. 🙂

Ever have that moment, where you’re just too stuck in what you’re doing to know when you need to step away?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a great week. Happy writing!

Spring, where are you? Or, Trying to Shake the Winter Rut

These cupcakes won't fill you up; my pin-cushion cupcakes I made as gifts. :)
These cupcakes won’t fill you up; my pin-cushion cupcakes I made as gifts. 🙂

Hey out there! Hope you’ve all started to see signs of spring wherever you may be. Here, it was nice and slushy, sun shining … and now today there are suspicious white somethings fluttering through the air, and a nasty wind (if I don’t name them, they don’t really exist). Which doesn’t do much to improve my mood, and frankly, I’ve been a bit down in the dumps.

I’m trying to remember that this is just one of the stages of writing … and probably symptomatic of other things, like a long dark winter, not having enough fun, and otherwise feeling a lot more of the uphill battle than usual. And there are lots of good things to look forward to, like the fact that heck, it’s only March, which leaves most of a year yet undiscovered, plus I get a rockin’ holiday with family at the end of the month.

And I’ve also been trying to remember moderation and gentleness in amongst the chastising myself for not writing enough, for not writing fast enough, etc, etc. Because sometimes, we all need a break – and we need to recognize when there’s a need for a bit of a break. Will I be writing today? Yes. I will try, and maybe today will be a great day and I’ll get in all the words I want. But if it’s not, I’m also trying to allow myself to write as much as I feel I can, and then I’m going to go off and play a bit, to allow myself other creative outlets to refresh and re-energize my outlook.

Which is why I’ve been spending a lot of time up in my craft room, playing with polymer clay and making miniatures, another passion of mine. And if you want to take a peek at what I’ve been up to, you can check out my other blog: Craft Room Chronicles: What happens in the craft room, stays in the craft room.

What about you? Have you ever felt the need for a bit of a break? Conversely, how to you get yourself out of slumps?

Hope you’re having a springy kind of week, thanks for reading, and take care! 🙂

Getting Over Productivity Guilt: Why Sometimes Not Writing Is A Good Thing

I haven’t been writing in as dedicated a fashion as I planned, and likewise feeling guilty for not writing as much as I should. As we enter the busy Christmas season, I know I’m not alone. Are you feeling guilty about not writing, or not producing as much as you feel you should be? At this time of year – and indeed, perhaps at all times of the year – there may be reason to feel better.

All right, first, let’s get something clear: if you’re a writer, you write. You need to write. (Just like a painter paints, etc.) That’s the situation, and knowing this, obviously you feel guilty when you’re not doing whatever it is that defines you, or is such a big part of your life. However, here’s the catch: creative work doesn’t necessarily work in the same way other kinds of work do. Sometimes, perhaps creativity needs room to breathe, stumble around, or whatever it is that it does which later allows you, the creator, to get more creative work done.

Confused?

Put simply, sometimes taking a break isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, a break or thinking time could give your creative self both time to recover and reflect, and then make a plan on how to next act or express itself. Some may consider this a kind of “soothing or caring for the muse,” and while I’m not sure I believe in a muse entity or not, a creative self does need some care.

If you’re producing around the clock, working very hard all the time, where do you get your inspiration? Is it possible that the well of creativity, of ideas can dry up or empty out? Every so often, you need to refill this well of creativity. What inspires you? Art? Pop culture? Being out amongst people? Whatever it is, indulge, and indulge deeply, allowing new ideas to swell up, for the well of creativity to fill brimming to the top.

Working hard all the time can also be very tiring, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Muse or not, what have you been doing to take care of yourself and those needs? Have you been getting enough sleep, or physically taking care of yourself (exercise, posture, etc)? When some parts of creativity wear you out emotionally, how do you deal with it? Do you keep a journal? Take a long bath? Talk it out with someone else? What keeps you mentally balanced and where you need to be? Perhaps this means a better balance between work and play – has play gotten cut out of your schedule entirely?

Perhaps you haven’t been adding to your word count, but have you been thinking about writing? Has a character been talking in your head? Have you been seeking out settings for the next scene, or mulling a new plotline? Sometimes this kind of work is much more difficult to classify or characterize as writing and producing, but it doesn’t mean you’ve been doing nothing. Sometimes tossing an idea around in your head until it’s ready to be born on paper or the computer screen is part of your process, or necessary for the particular plot / idea / character / whatever. Rather than simply chastise yourself for not writing, consider: have I been making progress on this next book during this break? Am I working it out in my head a bit more before I can get it down in definite words? Is it possibly just not ready for a physical form yet?

Then there’s the question: if you haven’t been writing, what have you been doing? Often creative people have different outlets for their creativity. Have you been creating in other ways? Painting, sculpting, designing, etc? Does one type of creativity possibly inspire the other, or does one supersede the other? I personally find writing to be my top creative choice, as it fulfills me most completely, but other outlets (crochet, sculpting, painting, sewing, etc.) are also things I sometimes feel the need to do, perhaps because it’s a change from the usual, and because working in different ways (sometimes expressing myself in a more physical way) is helpful.

Finally: give up the guilt. Feeling guilty about not writing, or not writing enough, or whatever it is you’re feeling guilty about can often become yet another barrier which prevents you from being as creative and productive as you can be. After all, if your head and thoughts are half-filled up with guilt, it means there’s only half the capacity left over for whatever you want to create or really think about. Cut yourself a bit of slack. Should you be writing? Yes. But a break every now and then isn’t the end of the world – provided there is a definite end-point for said break. For me, I know I’ll be back to working hard come the new year, but honestly doubt I’ll get too much done between now and the end of the holiday season that isn’t holiday related. I’m not thrilled about it, but at least I feel less guilty about it, which makes the possibility of sneaking in some writing days a lot easier. I know I’m a writer, and I have to write. But I also adore Christmas holidays, making all the gifts for family and friends, and generally enjoying the season. What’s so wrong with that?

What about you: can you take a break from writing and not feel guilty? How do you get yourself back to work when the break is over? How do you know when the break is over? Please, I welcome comments below.