Breathe in, breathe out.


“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? ;-)

 New manuscript

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.

Roses

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?

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5 thoughts on “Breathe in, breathe out.

  1. Funny that you mentioned this because I ALWAYS have trouble clearing my mind, especially when I’m very anxious and stressed been this whole week. I’ve tried a lot of things but nothing seems to work.

    This is kind of off-topic but I really have dreams of being a singer but fear I never will because I’m shy and not very confident. Most singers have to be outgoing and extroverted to sing on stage, neither of which I am. In other words, I don’t feel I have “star” quality, which will really hurt me in the end. Does becoming a pop or country singer necessarily mean you have to have star power?

    • Oh, I agree. It’s definitely when you’re the most anxious and stressed that it becomes so seemingly impossible to clear your mind. Sometimes I think the more you willingly try, the harder it becomes. Fingers crossed that you’ve been able to find something that works for you.

      Hmm … well, I certainly don’t know much about the music industry beyond loving to be a spectator, but you’d have to think that if the talent, willpower, and dedication are there, that’s enough to at least start you out. Maybe that outgoing quality becomes more natural as you go along?

      • I feel I do have all three of those qualities, definitely the willpower and dedication. I still don’t like the sound of my own voice so I can’t say that I’m confident in my talent. BTW, I read in David Archuleta’s book that he hates it, too. Its crazy how much he and I have in common. Maybe I need to go back and read his book!!

  2. Oh my gosh, you SO hit the nail on the head with this entire post.

    I too always get my best ideas when I’m falling asleep. Maybe it’s not so much that we can’t turn our minds off at night, but that’s just the way our minds start to wind down (by brainstorming, lol!) Think about it, before you drift off to sleep, your mind is settling and calming down, and that’s when ideas just drift to you, when you are not focusing and trying. For me it’s either this or when I’m driving home from work… always at times when I am incapable of writing it down! :D lol!

    And it is SO HARD to just listen to music without associating it to something! I do it all the time, whether it is for characters I currently write or it inspires me for something new. Also, the other day when I was driving home from work, I saw this new billboard and it sparked a short story idea that I just HAVE to get down. I know you know the feeling. ;)

    And I figure, if you can’t get yourself to wind down, take your laptop outside with you so you can at least take breaks between paragraphs to gaze up at those clouds! :D

    You have such an insane talent, and you’re such an inspiration with your diligence and devotion to what you love to do. Sometimes I let my days be devoured by everyone else and I forget to give myself time to do what I like to do (whether it is something involved with my job, like reading up on systems administration, or things I just want to do for me, like writing and running). Thank you for writing this, because it’s such a great reminder that I really needed!

    <3

    • Your comments always make me smile, just so you know.

      I LOVE your theory about why it seems like those brainstorms/ideas come to us at that point in the day. It’s like we’re going, going, going and working, working, working for so long … but then when everything is calming down for the day, that’s when your mind is free to wander the most. I know exactly what you mean – sometimes it can be a great thing to focus and try to come up with ideas, but often times the ones that work the best are the ones that come to us when we’re relaxed and not pushing too hard. And doesn’t it ALWAYS happen that that’s when we can’t write them down? I’ve taken to throwing my writing journal in my purse when I go places … it helps a lot!

      Oh goodness, and isn’t it? I have a few songs that really inspired WALBOL and I honestly can’t listen to them now without thinking of the story. Four chapters into my new book and it’s already forming a soundtrack of its own. I guess it’s a good thing I love the songs that fit it ;-) Do you find that you usually connect songs more to characters or the story as a whole? And yes, I definitely know the feeling! Isn’t it just so much fun when you get that initial burst of inspiration and all you want is to throw yourself into the project? Can I put in a request to read it when you’re finished?

      Ah, and this …. this is why we are such good friends. I LOVE the way you think! Laptop outside, cloud gazing between sections – check!!

      You are seriously just too sweet. I know I’ve said this before, but your kind words mean the world, especially coming from someone who happens to beyond insanely talented at so many things. It’s hard sometimes to take time for ourselves – especially for someone like you who has two little sweethearts to take care of – but it can be so important, too. How you balance it all, though … you deserve an award!!

      <3 back!!

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