Monday, January 24, 2011

Take a breath

Have you seen this post, in which Kelly Fineman discusses the importance of "fallow hours?"

In talking about the times when writers (temporarily) stop writing: "There was a time when I worried about them. Perhaps I'd lost my mojo. Or my imagination. Or my interest in writing. Invariably, I'd start to worry about what was going on, and what it meant, and whether I'd ever write again. And that actually made the situation worse .... These days, I don't worry so much. I recognize these fallow hours as what they are: a temporary break. Turns out that just as one can only drive so far on a tankful of gas before running out ..."

It reminded me of a post I wrote a couple of years ago called "Do Nothing," in which I described an important day on which I did nothing. Years later, it remains a cherished memory, probably because it was the only day on which I did nothing during my entire time in graduate school. (I was working full time as well. Yes, I was young and ambitious and slightly insane.)

And today Natalie Whipple posted about burning out, in a post called "Overdoing It." An excerpt: "I am fried, guys. I've spent too much time fixing book problems. ... Too much time stressing over getting things right. Friday night my brain essentially exploded."

I'm taking these as messages reinforcing something I've put into practice within the last couple of weeks: carving out a little more breathing space, indulging in some slow moments, long walks and quiet reading times and, most of all, times during which I don't do much of anything. My brain needs time to digest events, to gather itself for the next effort. It's as much a part of writing as the time spent in front of the keyboard. And more importantly, it makes for a happier life.

I've had to say no to some things, and put other things off a bit, and face the fact that I can't do everything all the time. Nobody can. I'm spending more time on things I truly enjoy and less time on things that were really not nourishing me. (As it happens, the things I enjoy do include keyboard time, because I'm excited about my current work in progress. But I'm letting this project flow naturally instead of trying to push it.)

So I invite you to sit back, relax, and put up your feet. And breathe. Unless maybe you happen to be in one of those joyful busy, productive periods ... in which case we'll have a cup of tea and wait for you. No hurry.

No comments:

Post a Comment