You know how this works.
You get online and someone with a blog or a podcast or an Instagram of their cat says ‘Write Every Day!’ because that’s a thing that’s really fucking important.
You go onto Facebook and someone – Chuck RR Martin, Harlan Wendig, JK Tolkien or whoever is famous and productive and good at the social medias – has posted a meme where Mr T or Big Bird or Grumpy Cat or your mum looks stern and says YOU SHOULD BE WRITING.
You nod and weep and do another paragraph on your work-in progress (or possibly your Work-in-Progress, depending on how significant this draft is) and then cut yourself in the shower because it’s the only way to feel anything.
Here’s a radical suggestion:
Why not just take a fuckin’ break?
So I was in America last month (pause for impressed gasps), and I took work with me – some day job stuff, but also the not-yet-finished-but-almost-done foundation draft of The Obituaist II. Whenever I got a chance, I did some more work on the book, trying as hard as I could to sort out the ending and write something concrete for my editor to work on. It wasn’t easy – a satisfying end kept eluding me, and I couldn’t tell if my plot made sense or not – but I kept plugging at it. Finally, two days before heading back to Australia, I found the time/energy/opportunity and wrapped the whole book up, at long last.
And now I’m wondering if thinking I gotta do this I gotta do this I gotta finish this was actually the best move, or whether it pushed me to rush through a shaky ending that maybe makes no goddamn sense because I was so focused on completion over quality.
Here’s the other thing: when we got back from the US, I decided to take a week’s break from writing. One week, specifically – from one weekend to the next with no work being done. No stories, no novels, no blog posts, not even any emails. (This does not apply to my day job, mind you, because I answered 200 emails last week and deleted a pile more.) I’ve spent the last week playing games, drinking beer and talking to people I care about, with absolutely ZERO work done on any project.
You know what it did? It made me calm down. It gave me perspective. It allowed me to drink even more beers than you think it did.
And, God help me, it made me want to write. It made writing into an opportunity I wanted to explore, with exciting new ideas about social media detectives and/or tattoo demons and/or brains in jars (I should write these notes down), rather than a chore I had to complete or a duty I had to sweat about. It gave me perspective and the room to – on my own terms – think about what I was/would be writing and how it could be better.
It was great. I drank so much beer.
NaNoWriMo is over now, and everyone’s in full-bore-crank-the-word-engine-and-fire-all-sentences-at-once mode, and I get that, and it’s understandable, and you’ve done a good job.
Now take a break. Take a week (or whatever) where you deliberately say ‘I will not write anything this week’, and see what happens.
Perhaps it will suck. Perhaps you will end up scribbling novella outlines in blood on the backs of cereal boxes. Perhaps you will OD on porn and unfunny podcasts. Perhaps it will just not be fun.
Or perhaps taking a short, specific, deliberate and discrete break will open the Eye of the Tiger once again. Or at least twitch the Nostril of the Tiger. Because when you don’t have to do something, that opens your heart/mind to want to do something.
Right now I want to write.
Bear with me.
Also, some TOTALLY FUCKING AWESOME stuff happening right now!
And no, I can’t tell you more than that!