Tag Archives: Rest

Exhausted is the new Sexy? No.

21 Feb

notebook-pen-table-blank-158771.jpeg

It would be easy to leave this page blank.

But that’s not what writers do.

I could make it sound like I always want to write, that it’s always easy, and that I’m ecstatic to be doing this right now. And sometimes all those things are true. But, at this moment, it’s ten in the morning, sunny, and 72 degrees out–in FEBRUARY!–and I’m inside talking to you. No offense.

It’s one thing to write advice for writers about useful topics like grammar, composition, and publication. These are important parts of the craft. They need attention. But, it paints this pristine picture of writers, including me, doing everything they’re supposed to do and doing it the right way (often the first time). It doesn’t show the scraps of paper, the huge chunks of deleted text, or the blank stare of writer’s block. It doesn’t show the restless shifting in my seat or convey the heavy, sluggish sensation of having zero motivation for getting anything accomplished today.

So this is me trying to write something additionally useful even when I don’t feel like it. This is me saying I’d like to take a break, that the weather’s great and I’m missing it. 

What’s useful about that?

The acknowledgement that rest and enjoyment are equally important parts of the creative process when pit against research, brainstorming/daydreaming, and writing. Without it, we burn out. A small, voluntary break now might prevent a longer, necessary break later on.

The quicker we begin to reject the glamorization and glorification of overwork, the sooner we stop applauding ourselves and others for how exhausted we are, the more guilt-free enjoyment we can have and still get things done.

I’ve seen so many memes circulating among the creative communities online about, “you should be writing” and, “it’s not research, it’s procrastination.” This is ridiculous. Yes, at some point, you will have to write. Yes, you should finish what you start. But the ideas that we have to complete it in the smallest amount of time, that we need to pull all-nighters or we’re not dedicated to finishing, that sleep is a weakness and procrastination isn’t a productive way of letting the mind wander, is harmful. And heaven forbid we stop our feverish writing long enough to remember to eat. Don’t glamorize forgetting to eat. (It happens sometimes if you’re really in a flow, and a flow is great, but celebrate the productivity of the writing, not the forgetting to eat part. Come on.) Since when is “overwork” the same as “hard work,” y’all?

Rejecting these flawed equivalencies is why this post, written when I didn’t want to, is useful. Its existence proves my point. I saw advice somewhere that said authors should post new content to their websites two to three times a week. It’s Wednesday and I hadn’t created anything new yet. By some construct of society, I obligated myself to do this.  And I would have felt guilty if I didn’t stick to my plan.

But there has to be a balance between doing what you said you were going to do and cutting yourself some slack.

And so that I’m taking my own advice and not just preaching, this will be my only post this week. 1. Little. Article. One opinion no one asked for. You’re welcome.

(that’s me telling myself thank you.)

How to Babysit Your Author: A Guide

12 Feb

couch

Staying in on a Friday night? Parking it on the couch for the weekend?

If you love an author, you might be stuck in the house with one of these bleary-eyed, curmudgeony, hand-cramped word-herders. Here are some surefire ways (in somewhat chronological order) to babysit your author successfully.

  1. Say goodbye to the corner seat of the couch.
  2. Turn on the coffee maker; put on the kettle. It’s only a matter of time. Whether your author wants coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, the hot water will be in demand.
  3. Hand over the remote. Watch some mindless, guilty-pleasure TV. Don’t feel guilty.
  4. Those little bitty decorative throw blankets? You can do better. Pull the comforter off the bed and throw it over the couch.We want our feet and our shoulders covered.
  5. Place cat in lap.
  6. Intersperse a few good puns throughout conversation. Hint: The best puns are the ones that make your author comment on how bad they are.
  7. Make a cheese plate, except with chocolate instead of cheese. Actually, the plate isn’t even necessary. Just hand over a stack of chocolate bars. Your author will know what to do with them.
  8. No nap-shaming. If you don’t want to sleep while your author does, read their draft. If it’s not ready to read, mute your phone/computer/video games, and don’t load/unload the dishwasher. Please.
  9. Wake your author only if you’re dying or dinner’s ready.
  10. Breakfast for dinner.
  11. Offer a neck and shoulder rub or a hand massage. Typing is easy, but it’s still strenuous work.
  12. Even if they already have plenty, surprise your author with a new journal, date book, note pad, or pen. Post-its are also a practical option. Your author might not have time to journal every day, but random thoughts worthy of a post-it crop up constantly, and they make great bookmarks.
  13. After reading and writing for work, authors often don’t make time to do it for enjoyment. Give your author a few hours of uninterrupted read-for-pleasure time to work on that To-Be-Read pile. It’s getting dangerously tall.
  14. Your author’s eyes might be too tired to read for fun. Give them a cold rag or gel mask to relax. Save the cucumbers for some hummus.
  15. Make hummus.
  16. Listen to your author’s anxiety-riddled plot-hole repair plan. Don’t just nod and smile. Give real feedback by telling your author the things that will actually help the story, even if it’s not what they want to hear. Your author would rather screw up in front of you and then put in more work than publish something iffy under the impression that it’s great.
  17. Remind your author that it’s fine they aren’t writing right that second. Rest is essential work, too.
  18. Did I mention cats? More cats. Also, refill hot beverage of choice. Your author has run out by now.
  19. Stay up late with your author, even though they napped and you didn’t. Remember to nap with them next time.
  20. Run a bath.

These are just a few ways to babysit your author. This list is not exhaustive, nor does it cover the preferences of every author. That means your author might be easier, or harder, to please. If the latter, I apologize on behalf of my temperamental, wordy kind and wish you good luck.

Pro-Tip: The Importance of Napping

9 Sep

Fair warning, today’s tip has nothing to do with the actual meat of your writing. This tip has to do with YOU.

I’ve read a lot of “How to Write” books, articles, blogs and all of them take considerable time discussing how vital it is to MAKE time to write. These how-to resources are quick to assume that aspiring writers are not full-time writers. I’m not saying this assumption is fully incorrect. Let’s face it; it’s very difficult to get by financially on the hope of future publication. For those who have not already started to earn a living by their craft, the reality is that writing is a part-time job, a late-night endeavor, a when-I-can hobby. Something else has to bring in the cash while we write toward that big break or perfect job.

So, while these how-to articles are not wrong to say that it is vital to plan a time to get the work done, they often neglect the person behind the task. I realize it’s difficult with jobs, families, and other obligations (plus the desire for a social life) to make time to write. What is even harder, sometimes, is to make time to relax. It’s easy to feel guilty for not using empty time for writing when all of these outside sources say that the best, easiest, only way to make writing a career is to force a place for it into your schedule. Sometimes, though, when you have free time, that’s exactly what you want to do with it. Be free. I call this post “the importance of napping,” but I don’t mean you literally have to nap—although I LOVE to nap. What it comes down to is avoiding the burn out or writer’s block that comes from stress.

Mind-fry is common when balancing so many facets of life, especially under the immense pressure for perfection that we put on ourselves as authors (see earlier Pro-Tip about obsessive revision). As important as it is to prioritize a part of your day for writing, it is equally important to prioritize some time (any time, even if it’s not daily) to mellow. Getting away from your writing can help you hash out new ideas, come back with fresh eyes, see mistakes you overlooked, and feel a general boost in motivation. How can you be excited to get started on something when you’re never away from it? Instead, it just stagnates.

So, don’t feel guilty or lazy or irresponsible for taking some time for yourself to nap, day dream, meditate, or take a walk. Not to sound cliché or sappy, but it’s true that if you don’t nurture yourself, you can’t nurture anything you’re trying to create.

Happy writing (and napping),

Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

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