Friday, January 14, 2011

Time for a refill?

My mint Christmas cookies

I'm going to admit something shocking--sometimes I get tired of writing. I'm not blocked, I'm not editing or in-between projects. I'm just burned out.

As writers, we don't talk about this a lot. We love words. We love stories. We love poetry. We believe in their power to change lives. But sometimes we just don't feel like doing it. I'm not talking about those mornings/evenings/afternoons (insert whenever you write here) when you sit down in front of your computer, stare at that blank page, and are seized by anxiety. I get that every time I sit down to write. Then I write a little and it goes away. Until the next time I sit down to write. That's garden variety stuff.

What I'm talking about are those times when you're just tired. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually. You are tired. You are empty.

What do you do? Some people will tell you to push through it. You must keep writing. If you don't keep writing you'll stop and never start again. Okay. They might be right. But they might be wrong.

I'm going to tell you what I do. A lot of the stuff I write is emotionally draining (especially poetry) and I get "empty" pretty fast when I'm doing that. When I get that empty feeling, I'm not a good writer. There. I've said it. So you know what? I don't write. I take a break and recharge. Everyone knows what happens if you never refill your car's gas tank. Eventually, you will run out of gas and then, you're really stuck. You, like your car, need to stop occassionally and refill.

For me, that means doing something creative that does not involve stringing words together. In the warmer months, I garden. I love designing unique gardens that combine different flowers. I'll spend hours drawing out plans. Sometimes I implement them. Sometimes I don't. Either way, something about the time I spend in the garden or thinking about the garden recharges me.

Recently, I've been baking. Maybe it's because it's winter and I'm stuck inside. (More likely it's because I have a massive sweet tooth!) But creating something that's beautiful and tasty is fun for me. Fun is the operative word here. Sometimes we need to stop working and have some fun. I used to feel guilty about the time I was wasting having "fun" when I could have been writing. I don't any more. Spending a day in the garden or baking cookies or knitting or drawing (all things I do to recharge) is not going to make me stop writing. Most of the time, it helps me return to writing with a renewed perspective.

Developing non-writing hobbies has another benefit. You've heard "Write what you know"? Well, thanks to my time off, I know flowers, baking, knitting, drawing, horse riding (yep, did that too for years), and all kinds of other things. Most of the time, that stuff finds its way into my work. In fact, thanks to my interest in gardening I became a Master Gardener and now freelance for Kentucky Gardener where I'm actually PAID for the stuff I write.

So if you've never heard it before, let me be the first to tell you--it's okay to take a break. Your ability to write will not shrivel up and die. You will not forget the feel of your fingers on the keyboard. You will not run out of words. I promise.

My Mandarin butter cookies (this week's creation!)

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