Thursday, April 28, 2011

Give Yourself Permission

I've had a crazy couple of weeks. There have been several 10 or 12-hour work days at the office, metro delays meaning long commutes home, dogs to care for, out of town guests to entertain, an ominous leak in the ceiling to resolve, and then what little time I have remaining attempt to get a run in, take a shower, and make a decent meal for the family. So where is the time to write? To blog? To read my Publishers Marketplace email updates? To Tweet? To read other writerly types blogs? Sometimes there are not enough hours in the day to do all the things I feel like I should.

On top of that I am right at the cusp of some major action unfolding in my WIP. I'm excited to get into it and really want to keep things moving along. A few weeks ago I felt like I saw the end of the tunnel to my WIP, at least to the first draft. With few days to write and little time available when I do, the word counts have been low. It's like seeing the end of the tunnel and yet instead of running towards it, I'm walking in place. It's discouraging.

We've all been here at one time or another. And even when we have our writing mojo in full effect sometimes life still pulls us away from our WIP forcing us to step away from the computer and extract ourselves from the world we write to re-enter the world we live.

And then there's the tendency to compare, to see the word counts flashing across other Twitter streams when I do log on and use this to fuel my guilt for not carving out more time no matter what! (Those episodes of Glee can stay on Tivo; no more distractions!) Writers are not averse to the confidence roller coaster.

Sometimes, however, we need to give ourselves permission to take a day off, to not rush home from work to promptly throw ourselves into our WIP. My mom used to call it "mental health days." Maybe we don't need entire days but, rather, blocks of time now and then to just unwind. At the office I always remind people that they can only do one thing at a time no matter how much is on their plate and the same is true for writing. I can't write a blog post while I work on my WIP. I can't read Publishers Marketplace and my next book club book at the same time. So one by one I tackle things off my "to do" list rather than stare at the entire list and feel overwhelmed.

Some multitasking of other kinds, however, is possible. For example those walks with the dogs I'm brainstorming story ideas, the long metro rides home I'm reading in my book. So while these aren't the big chunks of time I would love to have or the kind of more concentrated attention I'd like to give, right now it's all there is so I have to make the most of it. And I have to give myself credit for doing this too. It all counts!

I also have to remind myself that this is not NaNoWriMO. A few hundred great words trumps a few thousand poor ones every time. I try to be proud of the words I do write and remind myself I'll be grateful come editing time that I didn't rush through to the end just to be finished. Being finished with a written project, of course, is not what writing is all about. It's about the process. The WHOLE process.

While I'm frustrated that there hasn't been more time lately to devote to that process, I need to give myself permission to be excited about what I've accomplished already: 60K words I'm proud of and slowly counting.

Molly O'Neill at Katherine Tegen Books (an imprint of HarpersCollins Children's Books) wrote a beautiful post as part of last year's WriteOnCon about writers giving themselves permission to do what they do--to write! I'm saying sometimes we need to also give ourselves permission to take a day off from that writing if we need it; to not write just for writing's sake. To give ourselves credit for all the writing-related things we do every day even if they don't increase our total word count. To give ourselves permission to put that inner critic in the corner for a time out. To take care of ourselves so when we do sit down to write it's as cathartic and wonderful and productive as we hoped.

What do you need to give yourself permission to do?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I agree!!!! Mental health days are a must...even if I do feel somewhat guilty. Tomorrow will be my mental health day and it's not gonna be anything exciting. We have some errands to run and hubby and I will probably have lunch somewhere.