One of the things I struggle with as a writer, is knowing when to take a break. Or, more accurately, I have a hard time giving myself permission to take time off from writing, guilt-free.
Not that I write everyday. I’d LOVE to have a daily writing routine (and maybe someday I will…you know, when my children are grown and the only schedule I’m keeping is my own), but life gets in the way. In many very good ways, of course. But still, in the way of getting words down on the page.
I get into these grooves of writing, when I want to spend hours everyday enmeshed in my creative world. When I’ll choose to let the kids play on computers or watch movies while I write, write, write. Which means my kids are spending all day on screens several days each week. (Yeah, I don’t feel good about that. But I feel so good about the progress I make on those days—progress I don’t make when I only get an hour or two to work on any other day—that it’s hard to give them up. It’s a vicious circle—I feel guilty if I don’t get the words down, and guilty if I do.)
These grooves make me want to write every available moment, planning ahead for the next day…whether I will spend it neglecting my children again (though, of course, it’s not like they’re suffering—they thoroughly enjoy those screen-filled days) or forgo the writing for a day (or two or five) and spend it with them. This shouldn’t be a difficult choice, right? But it often is.
I’m in one of these grooves right now, and allowing myself a day off without guilt is hard. Even when I’m mentally exhausted from all the writing. Even when I’m so worn out that all I want to do is spend the day knitting and watching movies with the kids or go sledding all afternoon on the local, massive sledding hill, it is so difficult to give myself permission to do it.
Because there’s a fine line between being kind to yourself and just being a complete slacker.
And I feel like I tiptoe along that line every time I tell myself it’s okay to not get any words down today, that I can do it tomorrow or later in the week or I’ll get more writing done on the weekend (which never happens, I don’t know why I keep thinking it might).
As difficult as it is to give myself permission to take a break, it’s just as easy to fill my days with other things because writing takes a serious commitment. Even when I’m in a groove, there are a thousand things trying to distract me from the page, and I have to keep the writing blinders on, keep myself firmly planted in my chair, fingers on the keyboard, reminding myself to focus, focus, focus. All the other stuff that needs doing can wait. Just one more hour. And then perhaps just one more after that.
And maybe—just maybe—if I get enough words down, I can take tomorrow off without feeling like a slacker. (But probably not. ;-))
Jen Meyers is happiest when she’s creating—characters, novels, coloring books, salsa, sweets, sweaters, art, etc. She has worked as a professional actor, singer, and artist (among other things), and she writes fiction because she’s totally in love with making things up for a living. She is the author of the Happily Ever After series, Anywhere, the Intangible series, and co-author of the Untamed series. She also creates totally inappropriate self-affirming sweary coloring books (which make her ridiculously happy). Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @jmeyersbooks or visit www.jmeyersbooks.com for more information about Jen and her books.