I’m starting to think that I’m incapable of taking time off.
As per last week’s deadline, I finished the revisions on the current Big Editing Project on Saturday, a whole day before the time I allotted ran out. Don’t get me wrong, there was more stuff I could have done, but it was getting to the point where I was changing a single word and then changing it back an hour later. That territory is called obsession, and it gets a little weird in there. I should know; I’ve been there before.
So I finished Saturday night, and decided to take Sunday off. This is unusual for me; the last time I actually decided to take a day off was when my friend got married in September. (Note: this doesn’t include times when I wanted to, but couldn’t work, such as days spent driving across the province. It’s hard to type and drive, but if there was a way…) If I wasn’t writing, I was doing research, or thinking about characters, or something.
But not Sunday. I slept in, made brunch for some friends, and then spent five hours watching playoff hockey. It was a good day.
And then, just about the time the third period was winding down, I started to get restless.
You should be working, said part of my brain. You have some more ideas. Get started on those before they get away.
I ignored it and watched a Gordie Howe hat trick develop on the TV.
This is a waste of time, said the brain. You need to CREATE ALL THE THINGS.
I further ignored it, helped by a glass of scotch.
If you don’t spend every waking second of your life writing, you’re never going to make it as a writer. You think Joe Hill* wastes time watching hockey? Nuh-uh. He probably doesn’t even sleep. Stop being so fucking lazy and get back to work.
I turned up the volume, hoping to drown it out as yet another giant fight erupted on the ice.
IF YOU DON’T GET BACK TO WORK THIS SECOND THEN I’M NEVER GOING TO THINK OF ANYTHING WORTH WRITING EVER AGAIN AND YOU’LL DIE FILLED WITH REGRET ABOUT THAT SUNDAY AFTERNOON YOU TOOK OFF TO ENJOY LIFE.
I finished the game. And then watched.
Every now and then, I have to force myself to do this. To take a day and consciously choose not to do any writing, or anything related to writing. This includes, but is not limited to: research, character studies, editing, reading (anything I wrote, at least. Stuff other people wrote is okay.), rehearsing dialogue out loud to myself in the bathroom, imagining characters doing whatever I’m doing, and making notes to myself about new stories.
And it’s fucking hard.
But I’m always glad I do it. Partially because it reminds me that there is a hell of a lot more to my life that putting words in order.
And partially because, when that day is over and a new one begins, I am so bloody hungry to get back to writing that it reminds me why I do it to begin with. It quiets the part that sees it as a means to an end, or a long pointless slog. It prevents burnout and lights the fire again. And it reminds me why I love it.
Healthy? Probably not. But I’m okay with it.
(*Apologies to Mr. Hill. His was just the book that was on my coffee table as I sat down to write this. I have no idea if he watches hockey or not. I imagine he sleeps, though. Probably.)