So. I’m between projects. I just sent out a full manuscript for review. (Yipee! Woo-hoo! * happy dance*—sorry folks, still riding the high on that one.) Other completed projects are curing. I LUV my characters, but sometimes we need to acknowledge the need for personal space and “alone time.” Really. We get along so much better that way. So.
* strums fingers on desk *
Um, now what? Okay, this happens, right? A goal is accomplished, the celebratory evening week is done. Time to get back to work.
Uh-huh. If I had any inkling of what to do next, this wouldn’t be an issue. Point me in the direction of a goal and, if I enjoy the work, I’ll move toward it. No problem. Ask me to come up with a goal? Pfft. Right. Um, did I say that I have some ambivalence about making choices? Don’t tell anybody!
All right, all right. I know there’s lots of stuff I could be doing. Writing short stories, poems (* cringe *; I do NOT have a talent for rhyming words or thinking in terms of iambic pentameter * gulp *), blog posts (in progress, yes?), snippets of scenes/dialogues, um, reading, hello?! (Yeah, reading Going Bovine now—awesome!), and of course just plain taking a break.
Problem: I’ve forgotten what taking a break means. At least a voluntary one, anyway. It’s true. Okay, so, in medical school there’s this unwritten, intangible “truth” that if your eyes are open, you need to be studying or doing something medicine related. I think it’s a result of being in a competitive environment. Not to mention you get millions of factoids thrown at you which require synthesizing in milliseconds. And they just don’t stop. EVER. I think that value stuck with me through residency and now attending-dom. So, even when I’m taking a break, I have the idea I SHOULD be doing something. Doesn’t make for a very relaxing break, let me tell you.
Add to that a love of writing. As any writer knows, I need my writing fix pretty much on a daily basis. Sure, when I get slogged or burnt out, I can take a step back. Maybe a wonky plot point or a sticky dialogue irks me so much I need to put it away for a while. And once inertia kicks in, nothing can move me forward until I actually force myself. That’s the involuntary break.
I would imagine breaking away from a break, whether involuntary or voluntary, requires intention, action, planning, and, sometimes, a swift kick to the behind.
So, tell me, friends, what helps you to get back in the game after you’ve been side-lined? Do you just jump in and see where the road takes you? Do you schedule a date, saying, “I will sit down to write on Saturday at 10:00 am and not get up again until 12 noon?” Do you let yourself off the hook and enjoy the break until your mind naturally comes up with an idea of what to do next?