Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Taking a Day Off...

I'm one of those who is pretty much constantly talking about the "discipline" of writing.  Set a daily goal, meet it come hell or high water.  Set a routine and work work work.  And yet, there are days that, no matter how disciplined you are, the words just won't come.  So what do you do?  For many of us, we'll either work on another project (assuming we have one) or we'll stare intently at the blank page as the cursor blinks and mocks us with its happy little line.  Sometimes, we just begin writing, stream of consciousness, secure in the knowledge that, even if the thousand words we write today are crap, we can always go back and rewrite them, and tomorrow, that nasty case of writer's block will be gone.  The truth, however, is that many of us stare at the keyboard and slip slowly into madness as we blame everything in the world for our inability to form words.
Pictured:  Madness Personified

And that is the point of this week's essay.  Sometimes, you just have to take the day off.

Look, I get it.  You're serious about your craft.  This "writing" thing isn't a hobby… it's a career.  And you are dedicated.  Committed even.  However, like any job, if you become too serious about it, you will be.  Committed, I mean.  No, I'm not condoning slacking off.  And I'm not saying that this isn't a serious endeavor.  But what I am saying is that, even for the greatest writers in history, sometimes the words just don't come. 
Pictured:  Words!  Where are the words?
The tendency that we all lean toward is to barricade ourselves in our little caves lit only by the pale glow of our computer monitors and shun all life until something breaks in our brains to get the words out.  Hours may pass, or even days in which we eschew all rules of personal hygiene and social convention fearing that, should we leave our seat, the muse will alight and, finding us absent, depart without leaving so much as a piece of muse-shit on our chair.  We tell ourselves that we are dedicated.  We are artists.  We are writers.  And there's another word for that.


Pictured: Harold, the Hermit
You cannot force creativity.  You cannot force creativity.  You can develop all the tools you need to create the greatest book in the world, and still, some days, the words just won't come.  So what do you do?  Instead of sitting around and beating yourself up over it, you need first to forgive yourself. It happens to everyone.  Just like locking the keys in your car or moments where you just feel blah, it happens to everyone.  And it's nothing to blame yourself for.  It's nothing for which you should beat yourself up.  It happens.  The next thing you need to do is push the chair away from the keyboard, stand up and (Gods help you) go outside into the (cursed) sunlight.

Pictured:  Writer exposed to direct sunlight

Go out on a date.  See a movie.  Get a drink.  Go for a jog.  For pity's sake, go interact with people.  And whatever you do, do not talk about your work.  There is nothing writers like to do more than talk about their work.  In fact, many writers like talking about it so much, they rarely ever get down to actually doing it.  But for one evening, you're not a writer.  For one evening, you are going out masquerading as a "normal" person.  For one evening, you need to get out and actually enjoy life.  And then you'll notice a funny thing… When you get back, your writer's block will be gone.  It's true.  Because when you let go of that vice-like grip on your imagination, it relaxes and is allowed to flow again. 
Pictured:  FREEDOM!!!
Just remember:  don't make a habit of it.  Take your one night off, enjoy that burlesque show you've been hearing about.  Go home, get some sleep, and allow yourself to indulge for one night.  Feel that?  That weird thing that your face is doing?  That's called "smiling."  Then, the next day, plant your butt in your chair, and get back to work.  It was just a mini vacation, after all.

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