“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
~Sydney J. Harris
So … remember that time when I said it was probably crazy to start writing a new novel on top of everything else I’ve been working on? A week into it, and I’m beginning to realize just how true that comment was. For as much as I told myself that I was going to do things differently than I did with With a Little Bit of Luck, that I wouldn’t let myself work on multiple projects on the same day, I failed miserably at that almost from the outset. Three chapters into my new manuscript, and I already love writing it so much that it’s becoming difficult to stop. I’ve had quite a few days this past week where I’ve ended up with something like fifteen – twenty pages (collectively, between both stories) finished before noon. I love, love, love it. My eyes? Not so much, but I figure I can rest them when I’m asleep. Right? ;-)
In all seriousness, though, I’m quickly being reminded of one of the biggest lessons I learned when writing WALBOL. As much as I wish I could sit here and work all day, my brain does need a rest every now and then. The thing is, it can be very hard to let that happen sometimes. Even when I’m not necessarily doing some kind of active work – brainstorming, outlining, researching, writing, querying agents – I find that I have trouble clearing my mind enough to switch modes entirely. New ideas often pop into my head when I’m expecting it the least (and, it never fails, right when I’m ready to fall asleep), and even though I’m getting better at journaling them and then setting it aside if I’m in the middle of something else, I frequently feel that pull to jump back in again. Part of me loves that – especially when I’m setting out with this new manuscript and am so excited to see where it goes – but I also know that it’s important to take at least a little time to just relax. No one works nonstop, even if they adore what they’re doing. Sometimes the very point when we feel like we can’t take a moment to calm down and breathe is exactly when we need to do it the most.
I’ve found that making a schedule really helps. Knowing when I plan to work on what – which days are writing days, which are querying days (although, admittedly, I’ve been combining those this week so I can accomplish more), which are breather days – it’s a great way for me to prepare ahead of time. And in terms of actual relaxing in between working, I usually find myself gravitating toward a few specific things: walking (assuming it’s one of those rare times when there’s an actual break in the perpetual heat wave of this summer – I can’t wait to get back to my daily routine), reading, listening to music (although that’s become kind of iffy, since I now sometimes think of songs in relation to my characters and their situations – any other writers out there agree?), playing Scrabble, or just getting out of the house and taking a breather. Sometimes we all need to stop and smell the roses, literal and figurative. We need to walk down to the pond, to breathe in some fresh air, to sit on the patio with a good book and watch the clouds float through the sky. The work will still be there when we get back, and we’ll be all the more rejuvenated for having allowed ourselves some time to simply let go and let it be.
What about you? Do you ever have trouble turning your mind off? What do you do when you need a breather? What’s your favorite way to relax?