Exactly a month ago today, I finished my manuscript and shipped it off to a handful of friends who vowed to make my words the best they could be. Once I finished typing that final 72,320th word, I knew I needed a break. The HBH (Hot Black Husband) needed his wife to snuggle up and watch Scandal with him, and my boys needed me to messy the house with cookie baking and hide-and-seek playing and construction paper glittering. I needed the time and space to release myself of expectations, and just sit by the twinkly Christmas tree and read and be and rest.
So I did. But for one minor article and a snarky holiday letter, my laptop grew dusty. I broke every rule that Real Live Writers tell you, namely that you should never take a day off of writing, that you should always write for at least fifteen minutes a day.
But sometimes we have to let go of conventions and say good-bye to rules. Sometimes we have to throw “supposed-to’s” out the window and listen to our deepest insides (and the outsides of those we love), so we might come back our most rested, authentic selves.
So, why did I do it? Because…
- I needed to remember that writing is my love interest, not the hated spawn. Nearing the end of an intense push to finish the manuscript, I just wanted it to be done. I wanted this SFD (Shitty First Draft) to be completed so I could move on to an okay second draft. But it almost felt like I lost my love along the way.
- I needed to want to write. I’m a heart person: I don’t follow analytics and I’m not always practical. But I follow my heart. This has always been the case in vocation and in life, and writing is no exception. I needed the time off so I’d be able to return full-force.
- I needed to let my words simmer. This is a no-brainer, but with the manuscript in particular, I need time away from it so I can approach it fresh in the new year. Done.
- I’m not always one for rules anyway. If you tell me that I need to write everyday in order to keep my Writing Mojo in tact, well, I’m going to not write everyday in order to keep my Writing Mojo in tact.
- Scarcity doesn’t scare me. There’s a whole list of things I can fear when it comes to writing: I can fear losing followers if I don’t publish regularly and I can fear publishers not wanting to take me under their wing if I don’t have enough followers. I can fear that the Writing Muse will never, ever pay me another visit if I don’t write right this very minute, and I can fear that those who are doing the same thing as me will get ahead of me. But nope. Not gonna do it. Not gonna buy into the lie of scarcity. I’m jumping on the abundance-train, all the way.
- I needed to be present so I’d be able to stockpile some stories to tell. I mean, that’s what I do, isn’t it? So, call it research or call it rest, but I needed to be wholly available to the ones I love to refill the writing bucket.
- I needed to. That’s it. All prepositional phrases aside, I needed to take the time to step away so that I’d want and I’d have a desire to return. I suppose this is just a repeat of the first two, but it doesn’t matter: this is my list (and back to #4), I do what I want.
- I needed to know that I’m not as important as I sometimes make myself out to be. Ugh. Sometimes I get into this social media space in my head that begs me to believe that I’m only important because of the number of articles and blogs I’m churning out, because of the number of followers I have on Twitter and the number of likes I get on Facebook. And I know this isn’t true. You know this isn’t true. But sometimes I need my own little reminder slip.
- I needed to give my ideas room to grow. Do you know how many ideas have been floating around in my head when it comes to the manuscript and potential articles and blog posts over the past month? Most of the time, I’ve at least written them down as a note, but I haven’t done anything else with it. I am therefore giddy to look back through these nuggets and start anew, with nothing short of a bang!
- It’s healthy. The aforementioned ideas all point to it as well, but it’s healthy to rest and to take a break. It’s healthy to take a month-long Sabbath, and lean into being instead of doing. While it can feel drastic on the front-end, it feels oh-so-healthy on the back-end, that’s for sure.
So my friends, that’s about it, at least for me. But I know you have more. I know you have gems you could add for when you’ve taken a break from various creative endeavors. And if you haven’t let yourself have a breather, consider letting go of the reins and holding tight to this big idea of health in the new year. Maybe it really does start with not writing (or whatever it is for you), for a month.
So, what would you add or subtract from the list? As a writer is my analysis absolutely horrific and one that you’ll show your students as the perfect example of What Not to Do? Prove me wrong! Go!