Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Fricassee

Hello, all!

It's hard to believe that the Baker's Dozen Frenzy-ness is stirring up already.  I've had a FABULOUS response from the agents this week (Seriously! Best response ever!), and I'll be posting the Very First Baker's Dozen Informational Post next week.

Really!  Next week!  Tell your friends.

So, last Friday I announced that I was taking a writing hiatus.  I'm pleased to report that I've survived my first non-writing week.

It's funny how we forget what non-writing life feels like.  When we write, it's woven through the fabric of everything our days bring.  We plot in the shower, think through dialogue while we're driving to work, snap up twenty minutes here and forty minutes there to squeeze in a few hundred extra words, fashion the rest of our day around our sacred Writing Time.  And when all of that is gone, well, there are a lot of holes.

A. Lot. Of. Holes.

(But, hey.  At least they're not plot holes.)

Here are some highlights from my week:

1. I RAMPED UP ON BALLET.

In fact, on Tuesday I took 2 classes--one in the morning and one at night, with the rest of the day sandwiched between.  During the evening class, we had several brand new students, and my teacher asked me--ME--to lead the line from the corner when it was time to do chasés across the floor, so they could watch me go first.  YOU DON'T KNOW HOW UTTERLY WEIRD THIS MOMENT WAS.  Yet it filled me with a tremendous sense of self-confidence, and I didn't balk.  What makes this all the more satisfying is that chasés have been my nemesis for months.  I've overthought them to the point where I haven't been able to do them properly.  Yet there I was, leading the class across the floor.

On Thursday evening, only 2 of us showed up for class, so our teacher decided to lean toward "intermediate" (instead of "beginner"), to get us ready to move up to the next level.  It was amazing being pushed to do all those wonderful new things, with so much attention from the teacher.  Yeah, I made a lot of mistakes.  But it didn't matter, because I WAS BEING ENCOURAGED TO PUSH BEYOND MY LIMITATIONS.  And it was exhilarating.

2.  I CELEBRATED MY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY WITH MR. A.

Wednesday is a weird day of the week to have a special date, but my sweetheart and I managed to squeak out a wonderful sushi dinner to celebrate each other.  And I'll admit it felt nice to not have to angst about not having gotten X amount of work done that day (I am so horrible about feeling like I can't let go and have fun if I didn't have a productive writing day).  And Mr. A didn't ask, "So, how was writing today?"  (Oh, blessed relief!  For both of us!)  AND the sushi was fabulous.  I could subsist on sushi and chocolate.  With Chardonnay.

3.  I TOOK THE TIME TO ACCOMPLISH OTHER THINGS THAT HAD BEEN LEFT UNDONE.

I deep-cleaned my closet.  Unclogged my clogged-for-months bathroom sink.  Mended a dress.  In short, I looked away from my laptop at the little world around me, and engaged.

It's not that I never accomplish anything else when I'm writing--I do.  But writing trumps ALMOST EVERYTHING when I'm elbow-deep in a project.  And with nothing to trump them, other tasks rose to the surface and grabbed my attention.  (Imagine that.)

Mind you, the week hasn't been all happy fairies and cupcakes.  Sometimes I cried.  Sometimes I stared out the window and felt completely empty.  Sometimes I asked God what it is, exactly, that I'm supposed to be doing with my life.

You know.  Those moments.

But overall?  I've had a tremendous week.  And I'm so thankful (if not a tad surprised).

Admittedly, one of my writerly friends is going through the same thing right now (voluntary hiatus), and having someone to walk through this with has helped a lot.  She cries sometimes, too.  She's filling her days with surprising Other Things, too.  Strangest part?  We made the decision ON THE SAME DAY to take a writing hiatus--and we weren't aware that the other had done so.  If that isn't serendipity at its finest, I don't what is.

Okay.  That's my check-in.  What about you?  How do you readjust your life when you take a writing break?  How do things feel different for you during those times?  And--most importantly, perhaps--how did you find your way back to writing?

Do share.  More than ever, I need to reach into the void and find your voices waiting there.

18 comments:

  1. I spent my writing break socializing with family & neglected friends (bless their hearts for gaming in there with me). Crafty projects that have been put off for months were completed. Basically all types of cleaning took place as well. For me it felt refreshing yet depressing. It was hard to know the time I spent on other things could have been writing time but I felt so accomplished! I have to confess I did cheat. In some down time I scribbled out pages for a WIP. It was easy to get back to writing, for me. It's something so natural to pick back up. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  2. I also unclogged a blocked for months drain! And I got weird, creepy hard water stain out of my toilet that's been there for a couple years. It was glorious. :)

    I always feel weird when I'm on a break. Like I don't know what to do with my time. So I clean. And get organized. And water my plot bunnies. And watch TV! And I also cry a lot. It's so good to know in not the only one!

    And you know, it is nice to not have that pressure, even though I miss it. Getting back into the habit is difficult. It takes a lot of force for me. It's amazing how lazy I get. Lol! But I give myself a small goal, like just start the chapter, one paragraph, do anything. It takes another week to get back into the flow after that, but I have to start somewhere. :)

    Happy Anniversay month! ^_^
    Sushi is the best.

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  3. I'm different from most of you. I have written one and only one novel that I finished late last year. I always thought I wanted to write, but when I actually sat down and did it, I found it was much too difficult!

    I have always loved reading and I have always admired authors, but now, only now, can I truly appreciate all that you wonderful people do to produce the books I enjoy so much.

    Sometimes I find myself sitting and staring at the computer screen feeling like shouldn't I be doing something here?, so I have a small idea of what you're going through, even though I can't truly relate.

    I know this isn't quite what you were looking for, but I just wanted to give my thanks to all of you writers for everything that you do. And you do so much more than most people will ever understand.

    Hopefully my little bit of experience in the field will make my thanks feel more genuine and truly heartfelt.

    THANK YOU!

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  4. Well, I've never managed to get any sort of long-term writing habit set up, but as a result I have a lot of stop-start experience. When I've been stopped for a while, the thought of starting again is always really scary because it is a lot of work and I feel like there's a lot I have to hold in my head to make it all go.

    There are two things I've found work surprisingly well.
    1. Go back and read through some of the project I was working on when I stopped. Strangely often I find that I still really love it and start to get excited about working on it some more.

    2.Provide critique of someone else's story. It's less scary than my own writing, but it still gets my writing brain turned back on again. :-D

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  5. Wow, this is so heartfelt it's almost painful! I hope your hiatus continues to be a time of much growing and learning! I shot up a little prayer for you today, because you're awesome. I really liked HepsebaALHH's idea of critiquing someone else's story as a writing break.

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  6. Enjoy your break. Clean until you have no fingernails left. Dance until you're exhausted. Make a bucket list and do a big thing or two. Pretty soon, you won't be able to NOT write.

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  7. Always such wonderful responses, you guys!!

    BillD -- thanks for your interesting perspective. :)

    Hepseba, yes, critiquing is a good way to "slide back in". I, of course, am continuing to edit my clients' work, so in that sense I am continually "in stories", even though they're not my own.

    Petre dear -- THANK YOU. <3

    Next up: I need to write a bucket list. Clearly. :)

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  8. I catch up on TV shows I've missed. Did that this week. I also played with my cats more and read two books, cleaned, did laundry and the dishes. I took advantage of my writing "break" although I am editing so I don't know how much of a break it really was. I am almost done with the edits and am eager to dive into a WIP shiny.

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  9. Congratulations on your anniversary! And it's great that you're getting to dance more and that you had such a rewarding experience in dance class.:)

    As I mentioned in last week's comment, I've never chosen to take a hiatus from writing, as there've been more than enough breaks that have just happened for various reasons. And I couldn't even tell you what's the longest I've gone without writing, since I've never kept tabs on it in that way. I just know that sometimes I've written a great deal -- whether it was for a few days straight or during a few consecutive months -- while in other periods I've written very little or not at all (although I'm almost always thinking about a number of stories, and about the writing project I should be working on!).

    But I have to say that the idea of having to 'readjust' when I take a break from writing isn't something I can relate to. And thinking about this is making me feel guilty about rarely having had an organized and disciplined writing schedule that was consistent over a long period of time!

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  10. I put in a huge veggie garden this year, so my writing is in bits and pieces for the duration. Made pickles 2 days ago. etc.
    I do some of my best thinking while weeding and thinning out in the fresh air.

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  11. I'm a teacher 20 years into my career. Most of my brainstorming and research takes place during the school year and I write during the summer. I write in a screened in gazebo surrounded by green and light summer breezes and free-ranging chickens. It's glorious.

    My writing breaks are imposed on me. Teaching is so labor-intensive and takes so much out of me that during the school year I am able to revise but not start anything new. I just wrapped up this summer's session today and now it's time to face reality!

    I'm hoping to buck the trend this year. My plan is to spend the first few months revising curriculum (a constant process, even after 20 years) before revising this summer's 80k output. By January I would like to get back to writing (I only made it halfway through the 1st draft of this ms!). Whether January or June, I will be itching to write again and no further incentives will be needed. I do think the time away will result in fresh eyes and a better novel in the long run.

    I survive these breaks by focusing on the now and living my life as my spiritual practice, by reading fiction instead of history, and by establishing connections with new students, strengthening family bonds, meditating, brainstorming, and walking in circles around my classroom. Really.

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  12. I think you are so adorable. Miss Snark sure knew how to pick her victims :-)

    I never take a break. (BTW congratulations on anniversary - I love sushi and chardonnay)

    As I was saying... I never take a break. I feel guilty if I do. I always have ideas. That doesn't mean that I don't procrastinate... I do that very well, just ask my treadmill. I honed my excuses on the sports field at school because I hated sport even more than maths.

    I was buoyed earlier this year by entering into the Harlequin so you think you can write comp in which they asked ten questions. I won two of the questions. One on Valentine Day - and the last question as well. I didn't win the total story section but I know I'm up there. And in with hope eventually. I've had a few wins which spurs me on and I am good at writing short stories because I am a children's picture book writer as well which really gives solid ground training. Hence I've had some novellas published.

    The small successes teases you on to keep trying like they say... I want to be an overnight success story when it happens ;-)

    Enjoy your holiday guilt-free trip back to planet earth to rejoin the human race, but welcome back when you decide to FLYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY...

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  13. Funny, but I'm in the same place right now. Just finished editing a story. When I saved the final copy I felt elated. That lasted for about one minute. Then I felt depressed. don't know what to do with myself. Having been through this before, I know that down feeling is only temporary. Still...

    Like so many others, I turn to doing simple things, cleaning out that pesky closet that seems to refill every time I turn my back on it or scrubbing grout. I do fun things; visit the library and pick out something I don't normally read, usually history or biography, visit museums large and small and the quirkier the better, visit friends and family and listen and laugh and cry at their stories. Everyone has a story to tell.

    Gradually, as I do these things, my mind starts picking up a bit here and a bit there. Before long, somewhere in my subconscious mind some of the bits start arranging themselves into a pattern. Before long, the pattern makes itself known to my conscious mind, often while I'm cleaning the tub, or folding laundry. A character appears, a snippet of dialogue, a flash of scenery. I keep pushing it all aside until my fingers itch to touch a keyboard. My excitement builds along with the story and before long I can't live another day without getting the sequence down on paper. I open a document intending only to save what's in my thoughts for another time, and even more pours out. So much, I'm annoyed with I have to stop for dinner.

    That's when I know I'm ready to go again. That's when I know I have the energy and desire to carry me all the way to the end.

    A rather long way to say, get out in the world, read genre's not your own, interact with others and listen to their stories, allow your mind to gather bits and pieces without consciously trying to fit them together. It won't be long before something intriguing comes along.

    You are a story teller. Clear your mind, so another story has room to enter.

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  14. I did the whole break thing earlier this year. I cried some too. Writing daily is so normal that I sometimes let it inform me of who I am--as if I don't have value beyond the number of words I churn out. It's hard to get away from that idea and learn to be insecure in myself as a person, apart from my writing.

    It's weird having normal conversations with one's husband, isn't it? ;) I pray you enjoy this and can dive back in again when the time is "write" (harhar) knowing more about yourself thanks to the time off. Enjoy the editing and clean house!

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  15. Elizabeth Van TasselAugust 22, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    Dear Miss Snark,
    Thank you for the excellent insight you give to all of us. I'd like to add another idea for your hiatus. When I need to get a different perspective on things, I pick up an old love. For me, painting helped to bring me to a deep, quiet place again. I painted something from my novel, a dragonfly, and then more things that were pretty colors or some pretty image that touched me. It was delicious to listen to music, or watch a movie (I love the silly ones like "The Importance of Being Earnest") and just play with color. Being messy when you're used to trying to be so neat with words, is fun for me. Boogie boarding on big waves is fun too, and gets me in touch with the kid inside.

    Another wonderful resource to just listen more to God's voice not only about creativity but also about the beauty of YOU is David Manuel's small but amazing book "Once Upon a Prayer." Grab a notebook, go to a pretty, quiet place and imagine sitting with Jesus at your side. What would you talk about with Him? How could he play with you and your story ideas? More importantly, how could he bring water to the places inside that are parched.

    Hope this blesses you and your readers as it has for me often. How nice to take a break when there isn't a crisis! A blessing.

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  16. Congratulations on Getting Things Done. And on letting yourself cry and be hopeless and pushing on through (not that there's a lot of choice in the matter, but it's still important that you know you're allowed to do such things.)

    I have a huge stack of papers and an empty filing cabinet that I haven't made myself contend with b/c "I need to get writing done." So at least I know what my potential writing hiatus work will be. And it will be very satisfying to have an actual filing cabinet full of Important Things.

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  17. Thank you ALL so VERY MUCH!

    Elizabeth, thank you for the book recommendation! It is going in my Amazon cart (where I keep things until I can buy them!).

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  18. Generally I try to work on other stuff like drawing. As someone on a indeterminate length prose break for poetry.

    Might try graphic novels.

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