Giving Up, Or Why I Should Once In Awhile

Friday I hit the wall.  
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As is my usual wont, I woke early (6ish), grabbed my coffee, and went to work on my writing.  Lately I've been thinking deep thoughts about my novel rewrite and writing them down, which leads to more deep thoughts and more writing.  I'm writing about characters, trying to get to know them better, and pondering plot points.  All of this is intense work.

On Friday morning, I wrote a couple paragraphs and stopped, because I knew I was done.  Just…done.  My pen wouldn't move.  I couldn't form any more thoughts connected to the novel.  Nothing.  Nada. Zilch.

My brain, however, seemed to have plenty of room for thoughts about, oh, the missing child in my city, Kyron Horman.  Or the oil spill in the Gulf.  Or the World Cup.  (No, I'm not really a soccer fan.  I'm trying to be.  I have this idea that it would be really fun to buy season tickets for the new pro soccer franchise that is coming to Portland.  But first I have to learn to enjoy the game.  And that seems to be slow going.) 

In other words, my brain wanted to focus on anything other than writing.

My brain, poor thing, needed a break.

What I should have done was recognize this right away and take some time off from thinking and writing about my novel.  Lord knows I've got tons of other things to work on.  Or, if I didn't feel like writing, I could read.  Or take a walk.  Or go look at art at a gallery. 

But did I do any of those things?

Of course not.

Instead, I soldiered on.  I was determined, absolutely determined, to get more done on the novel rewrite.  So what if my brain didn't want to work on it anymore?  "Pathetic, lazy brain," I told it, "buck up and let's get going here."

And you can imagine how well that worked.

Yeah, right.  About as well as….well, I can't think of a metaphor so provide your own.  And so, instead of intentionally deciding to take some time off and give my brain a rest, I kept at it.  And ended up reading endless updates of the Kyron Horman case and pondering all sorts of interesting websites I'd never seen before.

This kept up all day Friday and Saturday.  Finally, by Sunday, my brain had had enough rest, the dam broke, and off we went again.  However, I suspect if I had just taken the time off on Friday morning, I'd have probably been back at it by the afternoon.

Lesson learned: it is not always a good thing to soldier on.  Though the prevailing point of view in this society would have us believe otherwise, which is one reason I think it is so hard.  In the future, I'm going to do my best to pay attention when my brain rebels and give the poor hard-working thing some time off.

What about you?  How do you know when you've hit the wall?  What do you do when you splat against it?

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7 Comments on "Giving Up, Or Why I Should Once In Awhile"

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Jessica
Guest
06/21/2010 17:52
Ah yes. I know the feeling well. When my brain wants to focus anywhere but on what I need to do, then I know I’m nearing, or have ‘splatted’ against, The Wall. At that point it’s time to give my Creativity some room to breathe. I figure she’s like a sponge and I’ve squeezed all her juice out. I need to let go and give her some refill time. The problem is, in an office environment the concept of rest to allow your brain to recoup is not generally accepted. You’re expected to work your eight hours and produce throughout… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
06/21/2010 19:49

Great metaphor with the sponge, Jessica. I find it very hard to write anything decent for longer than a few hours, with breaks. It is exhausting, though in a good way. And yes, I’m sure there are office mates who need enlightening.

Angela Artemis
Guest
06/22/2010 05:35
Charlotte, This is so true. I think when we keep pushing ourselves like that we end up draining every last ounce of “oompf” out of ourselves. It really doesn’t produce much – forget about your best work. We need to take breaks when we feel drained. Go do something else – like you did. I like to go for walks outside. We also need to stop chastising ourselves when we feel like this – no more guilty self talk. No one can be productive 100 percent of the time. It’s the way we humans were designed. Thanks for giving a… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
06/22/2010 10:26

I love walking, too, Angela. And I really need to continually remind myself to allow myself to do it, or take some other kind of break.

Christi Corbett
Guest
06/23/2010 08:26

Charlotte,
I know I’ve hit the wall when I rewrite sentences endlessly, then end up going with the original version. A gigantic waste of time and when it happens it’s a signal to take a break for a while.
Great post!
Christi

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
06/23/2010 09:47

Hi Christi, your comment made me laugh, as only one who has done the same thing can laugh. Definitely a good signal one has been writing too long!

Derek
Guest
Derek
06/25/2010 04:54
The mind is wily and cunning and interesting in one thing, having it’s way over the self. What better way to do this than creating such emotions as doubt and scepticism, and if that doesn’t work, giving me a feeling of total mental exhaustion. All things are temporary and in order to get away from them, I recognize I have to focus on and fully digest my experience. I come from the unkown and I am travelling towards the unknown. Sometimes my mind may be asserting this reality and telling me that I really need to take some time out… Read more »
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