Downtime be damned! (How to keep momentum going with the Three Rs)
I don't believe in "writer's block". I think it's a case of "to everything there is a season". Sometimes it's not writing time, and efforts to force words onto the paper are futile. The tricky thing is continuing to be a writer when you're not writing.
I seriously hit the wall Monday evening. Left spin class early feeling a bit cloudy. Came home and stared at the proposal I was supposed to turn in at the end of this week. Went to bed early. Dreamed weird fever dreams about a hacksaw, an Ingres painting, Nicole Kidman, this blog. Woke up sick, sick sick. I dragged my laptop into bed and tried to work for a while, but between the flu and Theraflu, my creative brain had turned to peat moss. This was not going to be a writing week. But I have no talent for downtime. This is where the Three Rs kick in.
Reading. There's never enough time to read. That stack of books on my nightstand grows weekly. Knock one off, add three on. I used to say I was taking the day off to read a book, but the truth is, reading is part of my work. It's no longer possible for me to read purely for entertainment. (And believe me, I wish it was!) The books I love best are the ones that make me a better writer, but even a book I don't enjoy is going to teach me something. No such thing as a guilty pleasure when it comes to books. At the very least, you're connecting with the mind of another author and exploring some segment of the industry.
Research. Because my eyes were gravellish this week, I spent time listening to interviews I've recorded over the last month. Then I half-watched some relevant television and movies with a cold compress over my eyes. And I cast that net pretty wide. Seriously, there's something to learn from television at any given moment if you're looking to learn. I took in several reruns of Law and Order this week, taking notes on the way plot and dialogue were structured. What I gained from that is substance for another post, but the point is -- anything is research if you open your brain to it. If you have only enough energy for TV, fine. Watch TV. But watch it like a writer.
Rest. I slept more hours this week than I've slept in the last three months combined. No lie. I've been hammering away 15, 18, even 20 hours a day almost every day. There's a point where the brain physically needs rest in order to function properly, and I was too tired to realize how far beyond that point I'd strayed. I posted a while back on a study that showed how the brain "self-organizes" while in the dream state. Beyond that is the simple nurturing that babies are wise enough to claim as their inalienable right but adults sometimes eschew as weakness. Colleen and I have said in this space many times: Rest is part of a writer's work. But sometimes it takes a croquet mallet to the head for us to take our own advice.
I'm sniffling but saddled up again today. Ideas woke me up, and that's always a good sign. I'm ready to rock this proposal, but determined to pace myself.
The moving, grooving graphic above is a detail from the painting Momentum by Jeanne Wright. Check it out.