It probably sounds like a ridiculous thing to say on a blog about writing and creativity. You probably came here wanting to read about how to kick-start your novel or fanfic, not to be told to
HAVE A BREAK
Sometimes, though, it is just what you need.
Let me be clear here. I am not talking about those Creative Seasons we all have, ‘a time to write and a time not to write’, to paraphrase Ecclesiastes. I am talking about when you are in the midst of a huge creative streak, you are going at it hammer-and-tongs, lost in your story world, your painting series, or the new symphony you are composing.
These are dangerous times. These are the times when it is very easy to burn out.
Sometimes it is healthy for your Muse and you to have a break from one another. Just twenty-four hours or so. Nothing big. We aren’t talking rupture here. Just time to stand back. Take Stock. Take a breath.
Because we all need to take a breath.
(And if you have ever realised that you are so absorbed in a painting or a story that you have been holding your breath, you’ll know what I mean.)
The risk of burning out is a good reason for doing this. You might call it a ‘creativity detox fast’ or something like that. A short spell of time when you can recharge your batteries and see your work from a different perspective. Take a rest. Make sure you look after yourself. Breath. Eat. Move. See your friends. Remember you have a life.
Yes, you have a life outside your creative endeavour. You remember that? The place where the emails have to be written, the laundry done, the cooking, the dusting, mowing the lawn. Remember that place? The one where you have to wash and brush your teeth, and sleep?
It is easy to forget real life when you are caught up in your creative surges. There lies the path to madness. Or at the very least, gingivitis.
This happened to me on Sunday (not gingivitis, I hasten to add!).
I had been writing pretty much non-stop for over a week. I had thought of nothing else. And then on Sunday morning, I woke up sick of myself. Sick of my own thoughts. Sick of the pile of dirty clothes I had to step over to get to my laptop. Sick of existing on gluten free fish fingers from the freezer (Tesco do reasonably good ones, if you are interested…)
There comes a time in every writer’s life when she has to tear herself away from her Word document and do the necessary.
I did the washing and the ironing, and went to the supermarket for fresh veggies. I did all those horrid, niggly jobs that had been floating about in the back of my skull all week, the things I had been putting off because I didn’t want to do them, and this time I had an excellent excuse (I was writing!!!!). I didn’t power up my laptop till late in the day, and even then, I kept my activity very limited. I didn’t think about my story world, forced myself to not think about it, policed not thinking about it very sternly. (Of course, the fact that I was sick of thinking about it helped.) I watched the film version of Oscar Wilde’s ‘An Ideal Husband’, which was delicious, and read a lovely book.
And for the first time in days, I felt relaxed.
Today, I have resumed writing again, relieved by the knowledge that the bailiffs won’t turn up at the door, as I have now put the cheque for the heating oil in the post. And I feel so refreshed. My writing is better for it too, I think.
Riding your wild donkey to finish your novel is all very well and good, but not if it comes at the expense of your health or your comfort. So be mindful when you are on a creative binge. Yes, ride the wave and enjoy it, but be aware that sometimes you can ride it even longer if you just stop to enjoy the scenery along the way, and do a little housekeeping while you are at it.