A Day Off
Okay, as writer-holics go, I’m pretty hardcore. I mean, I’m no Andrew Grey (whom I adore and who loves me!) at 900,000 words a year, but I average between 40-60K a month, plus editing, and it’s not easy. I work out, I’m active with my children (including driving them to school in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon, plus the activity taxi-service that always seems to happen in grade school) and you know, I have to throw my husband a bone every now and then, or he won’t do the same for me, and that would be a shame!
But yes. As a full-time free-lance writer, I take my job damned seriously, and so what I’m going to say may shock you.
Yesterday, I took the day off.
“What?” you gasp. “But what will that do to your word average? Your deadlines? Your entire effort as a full-time free-lance writer?”
“Well,” I respond, “with any luck, it will make me better.”
I wish I could post the Oatmeal cartoon in it’s entirety, because this is one time when a cartoonist’s pictures really do speak louder than words, but I’ll link you to it instead: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/making_things
Pay special attention to part about creativity being a river and not a stagnant pool, because, in graphic, scatological detail, Inman says something crucial about writing that a thousand other writers have said and that we need to pay attention to. If you don’t have a life to live, you have nothing to write about!
I mean, think about the activity of writing as a whole. You are sitting at a keyboard (and I almost miss the old manual typewriter, because at least there was a visceral, physical activity when you pounded that fucking key, right?) and when you aren’t surfing the internet (which is a bad, bad place for a writer to be—refer back to the cartoon, make it your bible, I’m not shitting around!) you are where?
Inside your own head.
Yeah. Now, as a knitter, I can tell you some interesting things about my own head. For one thing, it’s frickin’ huge. It’s a planetoid. If you don’t duck, it will block out the sun. Seriously—most hats made in a knitting pattern do not fit my head, and that’s before you put a rather ragged mop of hair on it.
But even in my head, there is a 24-inch circumference limitation. All of the vast world does not squash into my noggin. Now, it’s possible that if I take a trip or (say, yesterday) spend the day at the pool or out at dinner with my family to bid my daughter adieu before she ventures back to school, I may wash out some of the story-that-was-to-be. But, given that analogy of creativity being a river, if I let that story wash out of my head, odds were, that part of the story was mostly bear-crap, and my head—and the story—is better off without it. With any luck, that trip to the pool or the restaurant or the city I’ve never been to before will wash out all of the Internet clutter, or the last time I looked at YouPorn.com, and will leave, instead, that book about Agincourt I enjoyed reading, or the fact that my kids recognized the Picasso sculpture in Daly Plaza when they watched The Blues Brothers. And the really cool thing is that you never know what’s going to get washed in. I wrote an entire novella (Left on St. Truth-be-Well) based on two different waiters I met while out of town on business. They were both beautiful, both products of their region, and both awesome characters for a story—it was like, “Yeah, I left my front door and a story blew in! Go figure!”
So yes. I took a day off. I went to the pool, played with my kids, came home, took a nap in the cool (since, you know, outside the house it has turned into the surface of the sun!) and then spent the evening out with my family or watching my daughter’s favorite movies.
I could write the world. I mean that!
But first I had to step away from my own front door.