Fiction authors are compulsive creatures. We kill characters, start new projects and post our writerly frustrations to social media with reckless abandon. Perhaps most importantly, we write compulsively.
I am one of the worst culprits for descending into a writing spiral. Getting so caught up in creating a story that it becomes all you can think about. Your thoughts gain momentum and turn your project into something that you dreamed of but didn’t think it was possible to create.
In any other industry it could be called “entering the zone.” The place where the best ideas are born and the most creative work is accomplished. In my experience, it’s a lot like being in a coma. Falling into a trance one minute and then several hours later awakening incredibly hungry, thirsty, bursting for the loo and wondering what actually happened in the time since breakfast.
When writing becomes addictive, something you can barely go a day without doing or you’ll go crazy, that’s when you really hit your stride. Start writing thousands of words a day, making some real progress. The problem is that sometimes, often in fact, what we accomplish is not enough – and it’s never enough. If we complete an entire book in a day, in the next we will try for two, burn-out be damned.
Why is such impressive productivity a problem? Like I say, burn-out can really catch up with us if we aren’t careful. So even when our compulsions (or as my husband might say, addictions) have us in a stranglehold, it’s time to concede and take a break. An actual break.
Writing is a relief from “normal” jobs for many of us, as well as an addiction. So taking time off from it doesn’t make much sense, right? I thought the same, until I recently moved house. My husband, after several days of me trying to pack and write five thousand words a day, gently explained that I might have to press pause on my writing projects. Just for now.
After a week of moving and a week of settling in (i.e. drinking wine, binge-watching Netflix and whooping his butt on Mario Kart – OK, maybe it was a draw a few times), I’ve come to realise how important cold turkey is. Taking a break to literally do nothing isn’t just about recharging and relaxing. It’s about learning when to prioritise other things in our lives besides chasing the writing dragon. Anxious Authors, you know what I’m talking about.
Doing nothing for a short time improves our mental health, gives us extra time to spend with our loved ones and help us remember the other awesome things we like to do besides writing. Sometimes putting down the pen is the hardest part. Learning to do that when we – and our families – need it the most, is an important life skill. I, for one, will be taking this far more seriously in the future.
2020 has been a tough year. If you haven’t spent a single week cutting yourself some slack this year, now is the time. We are about to start a new year and it’s best to get some practice in before we start promising to better ourselves for 2021. Take a week to do less, recreate more and give more hugs than you’ve given all year. Hugs make the world go round.
Thanks for reading! Did you know I also write urban fantasy books? Check them out here!