What do you do if you’re just drained? Not stuck, not blocked–you still know what’s going on, you have ideas, you can still write–but you’re completely energy devoid, whether it’s because you’ve been immensely productive or because the outside world has just been piling up obligations. Do you just power on through, or do you step back and take a bit of a break, let yourself recharge?
I’m probably the worst person in the world to answer this question. I am all about resting. I will rest at every opportunity. I think everyone should rest. I am horrified by how hard many of my writer friends work. I think it’s immoral and plain wrong to work seven days a week. I am in favour of the four-day work week. The three-day work week is probably an even better idea. If only I could get away with a one-day work week. Or a no day work week . . .
Yet I hang out with writers who think that they’re lazy if they take a week off after having spent months and months, if not years, working constantly. The Puritan work ethic they has it too much. I tell them that they’ll wind up with shingles. But they don’t listen. So far I know of five workaholic writers who’ve had shingles. I rest my case.
Sadly though there does come a time when the work is piled up, and I’m knackered, but the book is due Monday and there’s nothing for it but to power through. I hates when that happens. Especially as it often happens because of the all resting I did. Which forces me to concede that perhaps if I’d worked harder earlier on I wouldn’t have wound up with all the work piled up.
But I’m in a very luxurious situation. I don’t have kids, or pets, or any other dependents. All I have to do is write and do the admin that goes with that, plus (with Scott) run our household.
I know writers who are looking after kids, pets, elderly parents, running the household, and meeting their deadlines. I have no idea how they do it. I’m in total awe.
So while I think that taking time away from your writing when you’re feeling drained is good for your brain, your body, your work, and your family, for many people it’s not an option. Many writers—yes, even published ones—are squeezing their writing time in between paid and unpaid work, family, and other responsibilities. If they take the time they need to rest it’s most likely their writing time that gets squeezed out. Not good.
I often hear writers without any (or many) of those pressing responsibilities say that you simply have to put writing first, implying that somehow if you don’t you’re not as dedicated as you should be. I have seen such advice fill the hearts of extremely hard-working, dedicated writers with shame. “Why if they were serious about their writing they would ignore the cries of their children, let their dog starve, never go shopping and just write, write, write. Clearly, they are dilettantes!”
[Insert big ole eye roll here.]
You know what else I notice? That often the people who are able to just write, write, write have someone else around to pick up the pieces for them. Someone else who’s doing the shopping and cooking and so on and so forth. Kind of makes that whole dedicated write, write, write thing a lot easier, doesn’t it?1
If you’re fortunate enough to be in a situation to recharge then go for it. Give your brain that much needed break.
But if you don’t have the luxury of taking the break you desperately need—please don’t beat up on yourself. You’re working hard enough as it is.
NOTE: Please ask your writing questions over here. It’s easier for me to keep track of them and answer them in order if they’re all at the end of that one post. Thanks! I’m taking writing advice quessies for the whole of January.
- I lost all respect for Charles Dickens when I realised that he not only had a wife looking after him, but also servants. [↩]