Turn it off, take a break

Hi, all–

I don’t really do resolutions, because I’m constantly setting schedules and goals based on my publishing contracts and other stuff going on. I tend to “shoot for a realistic goal” rather than make a list of resolutions, because I’ve gotten much better at figuring out how I work and what really is doable given my schedule and day-to-day. Which is not to suggest I don’t sometimes overreach. I do. But I don’t beat myself up about it if I don’t quite make the goal. Instead, I assess what the hang-up might have been, and adjust my schedule accordingly.

I know a few writers who feel guilty if they’re not writing every day. To them, I say, make a schedule. If you’re balancing family, work, and daily time, pick a day and a set time and make that your “for sure writing” time. Or try every other day, for an hour before bedtime or wake up an hour earlier. Keep in mind that your writing time is YOU time, and it’s always important to carve out YOU time.

One of the things, though, that I absolutely recommend for writers is to get away from the interwebs. Author Anne Lamott had a great piece recently in Sunset Magazine about making time. One of the things I completely agree with in that piece is turning things off. Stop obsessing over Twitter and Facebook. Get away from the interwebs and go sit yourself in your writing place and have at. Really. Twitter will be okay without you for a few hours. So will Facebook. It’s important for you to get away from those things and immerse yourself in your writing, even if it’s just an hour a day or an hour every other day. That said, it is okay, as well, to take a break from it.

Writing, like, say, a sport or a musical instrument, requires daily attention and/or as much practice as you can get in. Also like a sport or a musical instrument, I’ve found it’s okay to take a break from it for a day or two or even a few days because otherwise, I start to look at it not so much as a joy, but as a chore, and when I start feeling that way, I know it’s time for a break. Or if you’ve got personal stuff that comes up that needs to be dealt with, it’s okay to put that ahead of writing for a bit, though some of us do use writing as a way to balance stress of dealing with whatever else is going on in our lives. Just remember — it’s okay to take some time off from writing so you can get things back in balance. The muses will understand.

Ultimately, what writing requires is not just discipline and scheduling, but also self-awareness. You need to figure out what works best for you, and you need to apply a schedule (practice time) in accordance with your own rhythms. So if you’re running around all day every day and making excuses not to write, then maybe you’d better have a look at the reasons you’re writing in the first place. Could be you need a break from not just writing, but from the pace of your life, and maybe you should think about a retreat for yourself. Even just a day or a half-day of YOU time can help recharge your batteries and give you new perspective.

To that end, turn off the interwebs for a day during the week. Get away from the constant stream of information (which often proves unfiltered and useless) and get back to yourself. You just might find that doing so frees up some writing time and helps you make even more YOU time.

Happy reading, happy writing, and happy Saturday!