I haven’t written much lately. Not just on this blog, but any writing in general. Because I don’t yet have any publishing contracts or other writing obligations, my discipline is entirely self-imposed. Usually this isn’t a problem. Under typical circumstances, I’ve been able to routinely write 4 or 5 days a week, producing at least 1000 words per day. At that rate, I can finish a YA length novel within a few months. Between one and two books a year? I’m very happy with that. (Time spent on revisions and editing is a little less impressive, which is where I need the most improvement, I know.)
Right now, however, I might manage to write twice a week if I’m lucky. Maybe once, and sometimes not at all. There are several reasons behind this, all combining to make quality writing time a rare thing. First of all, we are in the middle of buying a house, which is an enormous undertaking both time-wise and stress-wise. I’m very excited, but exhausted in so many ways. Any spare time I have, I feel like I should really be cleaning and packing.
In addition, my husband has a summer job this year, which is a good thing – but it leaves me to entertain our two youngest by myself. (Our oldest is in summer school, thank goodness, because his need for routine and structured activities would get really thrown off by two and a half months of vacation.) The other two – well, they’re just old enough to have a well-grounded concept of boredom, but not a lot of ability to deal with that boredom unprompted unless I allowed them to watch Netflix for six hours straight every day. Which would be pretty lousy parenting. So…lots of trips to the library for their free summer activities, lots of trips to the pool and lots of scrounging around for activities they could do around the house without devolving into yet another screaming sibling war.
I have to remind myself of these factors, because I’ve developed the rather dubious habit of assessing whether my day was worthwhile by what I accomplished, particularly writing-wise. And right now, it’s just plain unkind to myself to expect the same quantity of writing as under other circumstances. It’s not easy to give myself a break. I know all too well that the primary difference between would-be writers and actual writers is the decision to stop talking about writing that book and actually do it. So I’ve worked to develop a rigorous discipline, whether or not any of my query letters get a positive response. (I’m on hiatus from querying too, by the way, because that’s one less stressful anticipation to be dealing with, and I’ve managed to make myself feel guilty about that as well.) If I do ever get a publishing deal, I’ll already have the ability to work toward an actual deadline. Right?
Yes, that’s all good and well. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take a break when I need one.
What, then, is the difference between taking a valid repose from a writing schedule, and just making excuses when the writing gets to be too much of a chore? It’s not easy to say. All too often what we call writer’s block is an aversion to the actual effort of writing. And often the “cure” is to just keep writing, even if it’s lousy, until you get past the perceived block. (Then come the revisions. Very important that you excise the lousy writing in the revision process.) Other times, if you’ve been writing and writing and writing, the block might be there because you’re burned out and you need to step back and take a break. There’s no single remedy, because there are many possible causes. I admit that when I do have a spare half hour or so, I haven’t felt like leaping back into my book. There’s some plotting issues that need to be resolved. Maybe I need to tinker with that in my head before I put anything on paper (or, well, the computer screen). Maybe I should reread what I’ve already written to get a better idea of the flow of the story. Or maybe I should write something completely different just to flex my creative muscles in a different direction. Which is why I decided to write this post today.
It’s driving me crazy that I haven’t been writing much this summer. I love writing – when it’s going well. Sometimes I love it even when it’s going maddeningly not well. It’s like a puzzle I need to solve. But right now, it’s generally more of a drain than an energizing influence, and that makes me sad. I expect it will change in September if nothing else, as we’ll be moved into our house and everyone will be back in school. Until then, I’ll have to give myself credit for whatever I can write, and let go of whatever else isn’t coming right now. Easy, right?