The Haze of Writing Forgetfulness

My view as I write each day

We arrived here in France two weeks and three days ago. Since then, I’ve written ten chapters on a new novel at a pretty good clip. Except for the two days last weekend when I stalled myself out.

I’d written up to the point I had outlined. And then realized that several other scenes needed to be inserted before that point. Which meant much rearranging and figuring and deep thinking.  Which eventually turned into procrastinating, otherwise known as forgetting all the advice I consistently give in workshops and to coaching clients.  Because I’d decided what scenes I needed to write. I was just having a hard time actually writing them.

And what is that advice about writing that I consistently dish out? It is quite simple: get thee to the page and write. Just freaking write. Don’t worry about making it pretty. Don’t worry about having it make sense. Just write. We are way past the age of typewriters, and rewriting is easy–that’s what God made computers for. And spell and grammar check. Getting something, anything on the page gives you a basis on which to build a draft.

I know that. And generally, I follow it. Knocking out ten chapters at a fast pace is proof, right?

But then I got myself blocked. And I forgot. Literally, forgot.

The pet crow who lives behind me

It wasn’t a matter of not walking my talk. It was that, in the moment of facing the page, I totally forgot. There was  a gray concrete wall in my brain between the idea to write fast and get something–anything–on the page, and the act of doing it. And instead I fiddled. And thought I had to have everything all figured out before I wrote the scene. Told myself I was stuck. Ate a piece of chocolate. Stood up and went looking for the pet crow who lives in the house behind me.

The funny thing is, I’m surrounded by writers here at the retreat who are following my advice. Who are busting out the pages, even though it goes against their usual grain of carefully rewriting and revising as they go. So I should have remembered. But I forgot.

I offer this as a cautionary tale, because your brain, too, might play tricks like this on you. Fortunately, in a desire not to squander my time here in France, I have come to my senses and started throwing words on the page once again.

And I remembered another truth, which builds on the first one: the things you need to know will come to you as you write. Yes, I believe in planning ahead. But some things just reveal themselves to you on the page, plain and simple. And if you’re stuck, the best advice is to start writing.

I do not know why it is so hard to remember this. But I will do my best not to forget again.

Does this happen to you?  Please leave a comment and discuss.

And, by the way, are you interested in coming to this wonderful part of France for a writing workshop? We have space in our September events in Collioure! Take a look and email me if you have any questions.

Living Your Life Purpose (A Love Letter)

I’m a sucker for a catchy headline (also known as click bait, which, funnily enough, I’m terrible at writing), and the other day I saw one that said something like this: it is why you are here.

Well, I knew immediately what the “it” was, and you probably do, too.  Your life purpose, of course.  Headlines like this are a dime a dozen these days because everybody wants to life their life purpose. Right?

Well, yeah. Duh.

I fear I’ve gotten so inured to the idea of life purpose that I rarely even notice anything to do with it any more.  Except that recently, in a moment of weakness, I got sucked into the black vortex of my Facebook timeline and noticed an impassioned post. It was about how all that life purpose crap is hooey and how being an ordinary person without one was just fine.

I’ll be honest, I bristled at this post.  Because besides a slight tendency to roll my eyes at the most diligent purveyors of the life purpose view, I do believe in it. Maybe because, at heart, finding your life purpose is about finding and making meaning in our lives.  And I believe fervently in that.

Finding meaning is what writing does for me.

Once, many years ago, my sister and I went to a talk by the late Madeleine L’Engle (author, of course, of one of the best books ever, A Wrinkle in Time).  When the talk was over, my sister turned to me and said, “She makes me want to be a writer.”

And that was because L’Engle talked about writing with a capital W, as a calling, as a purpose, as a thing that gives life meaning beyond worrying about publishing stats or finding an agent or your latest word count.

The author of the anti-life purpose Facebook post wrote about how ordinary life was enough—and we could find joy in the every day things and be content.  But that is precisely what my writing does for me—makes me love all the little things I write about in my journal or stories, makes me appreciate the life I have. Makes me find joy.

And if that is not the purpose of life then I don’t know what is.

I Almost Quit Nanowrimo

Last week was rough for me.

I was distracted by the election news and I didn’t get a lot done.  My daily habit is to rise early, get coffee and spend a few minutes checking on what happened over night before getting to the page. This early morning writing is when I wrack up the words on my novel. And since I’m doing Nanowrimo this month, getting the words in is really important.

But last week distraction got the better of me. I’d click around to see what had happened and get lost for an hour or more reading election coverage and trying to find some hope.

And by this past weekend, I was seriously discouraged.  Up until election day, I’d been cruising along on my Nanowrimo project and enjoying it.  My goal was to hit 2,000 words a day, which gave me wiggle room in case I missed a day or so along the way.  But I hadn’t factored in disaster.

And so by Saturday, I decided it was best just to quietly quit.

But then I realized that if I did that I was letting everything that I stand against win.  I let hatred, and anger, and fear win. Because all of those things are the opposite of creativity.  My creativity is the very core of me, and if I quit that, I’ve quit myself.

And so I sat down on Saturday afternoon and forced myself to write 2,000 words.  A few hundred words in I realized I was enjoying myself.  That, while this fast draft is really awful in places, in others it is not half bad.  And then I did what creatives everywhere do: I got up and did it again on Sunday and then again this morning.

I’m not as far behind as I thought. (When I’m discouraged, I tend not to see things realistically.) As of this morning, I’ve got a little over 22,000 words, which puts me about 1K behind.  And I’ve got a secret weapon up my sleeve–Millie Thornton’s 10K day for writers is coming up this week and I’ve signed up to participate this Wednesday. I hope to make up my word count and put some words in the novel-writing bank–because Thanksgiving is coming up next week and that’s another big distraction. (But at least I don’t have to cook this year.)

I may not be able to control politics, but I can control what I can do.  And what I can do is put words on the page one after another after another.

What about you? Are you doing Nanowrimo? How is it going for you?

 

What it Takes To Be a Writer: Part Two

(For the best part of this whole post, scroll to the end for the video. Seriously.)object_smiley_fruit_241984_l

When last heard from on Sunday, I was extolling the virtues of meditation and other such mental activities. Which might lead one to believe that one can sit in one’s chair and let one’s mind do all the work. Ha! Only if you have monkeys to do it for you. Too bad we can’t get them out of our brain and put them to work, right? But I digress.  Here’s the deal: YOU HAVE TO SIT YOUR BUTT IN THE CHAIR AND WRITE. You just do.  And worse, you have to do it over and over and over again, day after day after day to finish something.  You can’t just think about it. You can’t just ponder great, delicate thoughts about it.  You have to do it.  And I can’t help you with this. (Hell, I can barely help me with this.)  You just have to freaking do it.

And this is hard. It is hard for a couple reasons. Yes, because it takes time, and we have to find it, but really, that’s just an excuse. (A good one, and I rely on it often.) Because you can find time to write if you really want to do it. You can get up early, stay up late, sacrifice your lunch hour, give up Happy Hour with your husband, forgo watching TV.  You can, if you want to.  You (and I) just don’t. Because:

Energy and Bandwidth

What I think is a much bigger issue is twofold: having the energy and the bandwidth to do it.   We are all busy people, most of us way too busy.  (And we wrap that busyness around us like a shield at times, too. I know I do it.) And busyness is exhausting. Which leaves us with little energy for writing. It also leaves us with over-full brains.  Sometimes I want to write, but I just can’t connect with my WIP. Can’t find a way in. Can’t remember where I was, why I wanted to write the book in the first place. I simply don’t have enough mental bandwidth.  I’m exhausted, and so is my brain.

The antidote?

  1. Recognize that you’re exhausted and get some freaking rest. Sometimes you just have to say enough already and take a break. (For a helpful push in this direction, read Wayne Muller’s How to Be, Have, and Do Enough.)  I have a hard time doing this because its inbred in me to feel guilty when I take a break.  And then, funnily enough, when I do take a break, all I want to do forever is laze about.  Which may be why I resist relaxing in the first place, because I’m afraid I’ll never stop. (And now that I think about it, this is a clear sign of letting the busyness get to me.)
  2. Cleanse your brain. Besides meditation, which I’ve already recommended, the best way to do this is to watch what you eat. And, as far as I can tell, the only advice that everyone seems to agree on when it comes to nutrition is to eat lots of fruits and veggies. Beyond that, I believe that you need to figure out what works best for you. Some people do need to be gluten-free. Others can happily eat pasta and bread without a problem. And yet others, like me, need to be mindful of having enough protein at every meal to prevent energy crashes.  Only you can figure this out.  But remember that old adage from the sixties–you are what you eat–really is true.  And it affects our writing as well. (There’s also the issue of you are what you drink, but I’m not going there at the moment.)
  3. Take imperfect action.  When I get anxious and stressed is when I magnify things in my mind. I don’t just have to write a blog post, it has to be the best blog post ever. I don’t just have to write a scene in my novel, it has to be compelling and thrilling. Pretty sure this is the brain’s way of signaling overload.  But if you allow yourself to be imperfect and just do something, anything, you’ll feel good about it and then you can start to build some momentum.
  4. Say no. Or cop to the activities you’re saying yes to. What is more important to you–being volunteer of the year or writing your novel? I’m not asking facetiously, it is a serious question. Maybe it is most important for you to spend hours you could be writing at your volunteer post. No judgement. But if it so, then admit it and quit stressing about not having time to write. Just clearing the stress will open up mental bandwidth. Also, it is a good thing to say no. Period.

So you’ve got yourself all cleared and psyched up. Ready to go.  Your butt is in the chair. There you sit, ready to write. What next? That’s the topic of my next post. (I really didn’t think there were going to be three posts in this series, but this one is already pushing 800 words so it seems like a good idea.)

And, because we were talking about monkeys, and because I love ya, here’s a compendium of trunk monkey videos

What are you monkeys up to these days?

What it Takes to Be a Writer: Part One

asok_project365_mydesk_1059218_hWherein I talk about what it takes to be a writer, in my humble opinion, anyway.  To finish a book project, or even an article or short story.  To get the book out in the world, either into the hands of an agent and editor, or publish it yourself, which is a whole other enterprise. To hit the bestseller list. To rinse and repeat, which you’re going to need to do to build a career as a writer. What it takes to accomplish whatever your dream is.

Fresh off teaching a recent workshop in France, I’ve been pondering this.  Working with writers, listening to their hopes and frustrations opens my eyes over and over again, because their concerns echo mine in my own writing practice.  We are all gloriously different, right? And, at heart, we are also all very much alike.  To that end, here are two arenas in which many frustrations lie:

  1. Mindset
  2. Butt in chair

Let’s look at mindset,  otherwise known as the way you think, first.  It is easy to groan about this, to hold up your hands and say “Don’t tell me I am what I think!” But the cold, hard truth of the matter is that it’s true. If you think you can do it, you will be able to. But if you don’t think you can, you won’t. Sigh. You really do need to master your mindset about your writing.

But here’s a lot of the reason why—because after thinking about it, you need to do it. I know. Duh. But if you’re busy telling yourself that you can’t do it, you won’t. It’ll be too much pressure. You’ll get bored and wander away, take up archery or long-distance swimming or bird-watching.  Thoughts wear grooves in your brain and if you keep thinking you can’t, then your brain will believe you. And you won’t take time to write, because, well, you’re convinced you can’t. Or that you’re a bad writer. Or that the odds are stacked against you.

I follow a young woman named Jennifer Blanchard.  She is always ranting fervently about mindset and how important it is, how one must write down their goals every day, or at least re-read their goals. Etc., etc.  Part of me loves this stuff. Loves it. And part of me—the part that actually has to take the action—rolls my eyes at it.  But the thing is, everything she says about mindset is true.  You gotta get your brain in the right place to be a writer.  And that means doing whatever it takes, be that rereading your goals every day or monitoring those pesky negative thoughts.

Most of all it means you have to believe you can do it. Because if you don’t believe, you won’t make the time for it.  You’ll read knitting blogs (like I do when I get blocked), instead. Or you’ll decide the kitchen floor needs mopping. Or the cat’s nails need trimming. And the thing is—you won’t even realize why you’re indulging in these procrastination activities. You’ll convince yourself that it’s because there’s that spot of dirt, right there on the floor where everyone can see it.  Or that you absolutely must read that blog because you have to figure out where you went wrong on the sweater you’re knitting.  Or that the cat pulled up a thread on your gorgeous slipcover. Like that.

What’s the antidote to this? In truth, a lot of it is in taking action, which I’ll get to in a moment. Because the more you write, the easier it becomes and the easier it becomes, the more you’ll believe you can do it. Yeah, there is definitely an endless loop going on here.  But here are a couple other hints about mindset:

  1. Visualization has scientifically been proven to help. Not visualizing the moment you stand at the podium and accept your Nobel Prize for Literature, but visualizing yourself actually sitting at the computer writing. Thinking about how it feels as the words flow and your fingers range across the page.

Here’s an article that gives a good rundown on how to do it, and here’s one from Psychology Today on its benefits.

  1. Meditation and positive thinking. Activities that go hand in hand with visualization are meditation (you knew I was going there) because it quiets the damn monkeys in the brain enough to allow you to think positive thoughts about your writing, and affirmations. Yeah, I know. Dopey. I get it. But you can use them in the most casual of ways, as in when you’re thinking how you just can’t seem to get the scene right instead of berating yourself for being an idiot who can’t write, turn it around and tell yourself you know the story and you can figure out the scene. Just tell yourself that the rest of the day. C’mon, you’re a storyteller, right? So tell yourself a positive story. That’s all an affirmation is, in truth. You’re going to be telling yourself something all day anyway, it might as well be something positive.

As for meditation, just try it. Really. It is ten or fifteen minutes out of your day, and if it helps you become a better writer, isn’t that time well spent? I highly recommend downloading the Insight Timerfor your phone and using it. You can set interval bells so that the fifteen minutes doesn’t seem to stretch to fifteen hours, and there’s all kinds of cool ambient sounds you can meditate to, as well as a selection of guided meditations to try. Plus, it’s like social media for meditators. You can create a profile and interact with others all over the world.

Okay, so, alas, one cannot sit in one’s recliner and meditate and visualize and think positive thoughts all day and become a writer.  Would that we could. So I’ll discuss part two of the topic of what it takes in a blog post slated for Wednesday.

Until then, happy mind-setting. Or meditating. Or whatever.

And do tell what you think it takes to be a writer.

Gratitude, Schmatitude: Writers, Let’s Complain Instead

turkey_gobble_dinner_268746_lToday is Thanksgiving day in the United States.  For those of you living in other parts of the world, our Thanksgiving is a day to feast and be grateful (never mind that it is slowly getting co-opted by big box stores trying to sell Christmas stuff early).  It began waaaay back in the day, when the first settlers of our fair land, the Pilgrims, made it through their first winter and subsequent harvest season and threw a feast to celebrate.  They even included the locals, Native Americans without whose help they wouldn’t have survived.  (Fat lot of good it did them in the long run.)

As mentioned, gratitude and gratefulness are cornerstones of this day.  And to that I say–bah humbug!  No wait, that’s the wrong holiday.   To that I say–uh uh, no way.  Because, c’mon, we writers have a lot to complain about.  Such as:

  1. Writing is hard.  It just is.  It takes a lot of energy to throw words at the page, make them sound pretty, and have them make sense.  And never mind that you also have to come up with a great story.
  2. The publishing industry sucks.  They pay all their money to a few star authors and ignore the rest of us.  It is slow and dinosaur-like and in general the worst business model ever in the history of the world.
  3. Even when you get published, your book won’t sell.  Because, like, all those stupid self-publishers are out there gumming up the works with their crap.  Our brilliant tomes don’t stand a chance.
  4. There are all kinds of scams preying on writers.  Yeah, its just too much effort to figure out who gives good advice and who doesn’t.  Easier to become an actuary.
  5. Sitting is bad for you.  And lord knows, one must sit for hours at a time to write.
  6. You have to learn grammar! Enough said.
  7. And you probably have to read poetry to be a real writer.  One word: ugh.

Oh, I could go on and on–I’ve not even touched on writer’s block for instance–but I’ll leave it to you to add some complaints to your list.  And today, at the Thanksgiving table, be sure to sigh loudly and mention all these complaints when the topic of gratitude comes up.   I’m certain your assembled guest will be delighted.  And if not, pour yourself another glass of wine and mutter about how misunderstood writers are.

But wait.  What about that moment when you sit up in bed in the middle of the night because you’ve just gotten the idea that pulls the whole book together?  Or the time when you write the most beautiful, heartbreaking sentence known to man? That feeling you get when you’ve completed a writing session and you are in love with everything in the whole world? What about all that?

Yeah, its all that stuff that keeps me writing.  Plus the fact that in however many years I’ve been doing this, writing is the one thing that has never gotten boring to me.  Ever.  And those of you who’ve been reading my blog and newsletter for awhile know that I’m a big fan of a lot of woo-woo stuff like gratitude and that this is written with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek.

Because I am so grateful to be a writer I can’t imagine doing anything else.  I love every aspect of it, even all the things I listed above, and I detest the kinds of writers who think its cool to complain so much.  So today, on Thanksgiving, let’s all give our deepest, most humble thanks for this wonderful work that we get to do.  For the stories we get to tell, the fun we get to have every single time we sit down at our desks.

And the truth of the matter is that I’m actually complaint-adverse.  Or at least I try to be. There’s nothing that turns me off faster than listening to someone bitch and moan.  Especially if it is about writing!  So let’s all celebrate the true meaning of Thanksgiving (it is NOT just the day to be endured before Black Friday) and be grateful.

Photo by kindhelper.

You’re a Creative Person, Right?

Crayons-crayola-artsupplies-867610-hCreative vs. Non-Creative People

In which I attempt to answer the question, is there such a thing as a non-creative person?

Years ago, when I was a fledgling writer still getting used to becoming enraptured in the throes of the creative process, I developed a theory:

The world was divided into creative and non-creative people.

Creative people understood when I said I was in the middle of a chapter and couldn't go to a movie with them (or more likely, watch their child–since I wrote at home, I was that Mom who everyone dumped their kids on).

Non-creative people didn't.

Creative people got it when I talked about getting up early to write.  Non-creative people just kvetched about hitting the snooze button.

And just like morning people and night owls will never agree on the best schedule for the day, so, too, creative and non-creative people will never see eye to eye.

That is what I used to think.

But then I got schooled.

Schooled in the idea that all of us, every single one, is a creative being.  Moreover, our purpose in life, the reason we were put here, is to be creative.  Creativity for me means writing (okay, and knitting, too).  But for you it might mean gardening. Or sewing. Or lawn mowing.  Or playing the ukulele.  Or building furniture. I remember once, years ago, having gum surgery and realizing that for my dentist, working on teeth was a creative process.

Creativity is that thing that you do and you don't know time has passed.  It is that thing you do when you are totally present without having to bring yourself back to the moment a million times because you are jus there–totally wrapped up in it. It is that thing you do that makes you feel most alive–and afterwards in love with all the world.

And all of us have that creative spark within us.  And if we heed it, we'll be happier people.  And thus, so will the rest of the world.

I know I'm happier–by five thousand country miles–when I'm honoring that creative spark within. When I'm making the time, and using the energy, to write, to knit, to garden.  Because the truth is, creativity does take energy.  It is harder to sit at your computer and throw words at the page than it is to surf the internet and read news and celebrity stories because when you're being creative, your brain has to work.  It is harder to pick up the knitting rather than just stare at the TV (I speak for myself here) because your fingers have to move.

Creative work requires energy, for sure.  But the good news is that after you've expended that energy you'll feel better than you could ever imagine.  You'll be exhilarated–and maybe exhausted at the same time.  But it will be a good exhaustion, the kind that comes when you've put everything you've got in that moment out on the page, or the canvas, or the garden bed, or into the strings of your guitar, or however you best like to express yourself.

And I suspect that those among us who claim to be not creative have simply not expended the time or energy to figure out where their creativity lies within.  And if they did, they'd experience the absolute joy of letting it flow out.

So, yeah, don't tell me that you're not creative–because I know you are.  I'm likely preaching to the choir here, but all of us can stand a reminder of this now and then, don't you think?

Did you ever have a time when you thought you weren't creative? Leave a comment and let's discuss.

Photo by laffy4K.

A Guide to the Care and Tending of Writers, Part Two

So, this week & last, we are on the topic of self care for writers.  I know, wahk (that's the sound of a Buddha_buddhism_religion_581602_hbuzzer). But this is an important subject for you to pay attention to, so that you don't burn out.  So listen up. But first, go read Part One. Because in that ditty, I wrote about how you can tell you're in overwhelm and need to take a break.

But, really?  You need to give yourself a break every day.  You're putting crazy energy out into the world as you write.  Be aware of that and cultivate some time to yourself to get some of that energy back.  And–if you are like me, at first you will have to force yourself to do this. If you're like me, you'll resist.  You'll sit at the computer, certain that the words will come at any minute, sure that the fog of indecision will lift.  But it won't.  

You need to take a freaking break already!

And the one thing I've learned over years of doing this is that if you do these things, create, gasp, a routine of them, your writing will flourish.  So here are some suggestions for incorporating self-care into your life:

1.  Stretch.  I'm working on getting up from the computer every 20 (okay, it is usually more like 40) minutes and doing a couple of simple stretches.  This makes an enormous difference in how I feel at the end of the day.

2.  Artist's Date.  Julia Cameron advocates this in her book, The Artist's Way.  It is something you do alone, and can be as simple as taking your journal to the coffee shop.  Or going to an art gallery. Whatever makes you happy and fills the well. I'm lousy at doing this.  Really lousy.  But when I do, it is mind expanding.

3. Color.  Like in a coloring book, the way you did as a kid.  I'm not kidding, it is really relaxing. There's a whole series of Mandala coloring books you can get if that makes you feel more adult.  Or scribble shapes on a pad of paper and color in the blanks.  Here is a really cool link I found where you can print separate pages out.

4.  Read.  As I've mentioned a time or two before, if you're a writer, you need to read.  Words in, words out.  If I'm putting a lot of words out on the page, I need to pull a lot of them in as well.  And, it is relaxing.

5. Walk.  Get thyself out of the house and into the fresh air.  Carry index cards or your phone to take notes on (I highly recommend Evernote) because you will get ideas that you will want to write down.

6.  Enjoy a hobby. Cook, bake, garden (come to my house and pull some weeds if you like). Knit, crochet, sew.  I used to think that doing creative projects other than writing pulled me away from my writing–but really, it just enhances it.

7.  Get a mani-pedi.  Or just a pedi. Guys, you too.  Hit a salon that has a massage chair and you'll have a relaxing time, while your feet get spiffed up, too.

8.  Get a massage.  I've had the enormous luxury of getting a chiropractic massage weekly (thank you, health insurance) this year.  This is because my body is a bit out of whack.  The massages are helping me physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally.  Well worth it.

9.  Sit under a tree.  When my kids were little, upon occasion we would visit the nearby park and I would let them play while I sat a picnic table and wrote or simply pondered life's issues.  Getting out into nature is soothing in a way nothing else is.

10.  Get outta town.   Okay, so I am fortunate to live in Portland, Oregon, where the ocean is an hour in one direction and the mountains an hour in the other.  But do I avail myself of these delights?  Rarely.  Don't be like me.  Take a day trip.

11.  Meditate.  Or, keep it simple and not so scary and just pause and take some huge deep breaths every so often throughout the day.

12.  Do nothing.  Closely related to #11.  Just sit and do nothing.  Or stand and do nothing.  Or lie down and do nothing.  Wait, better skip that last one, because if you're like me you'll fall asleep. Which actually isn't a bad idea–napping is good, also.  Honestly, think about it–when is the last time you let yourself really do nothing?  I know, ages ago.  Me, too.

What else?  Well, what relaxes you?  What makes you happy?  Make a list–and then indulge yourself once in awhile.  Blame it on me if you must, but do it.  

Do you build time into your day or week for self care?  What's your favorite thing to do?

A Guide to the Care and Tending of Writers, Part One

Let's talk about self care.  Yeah, I know, you'd rather be writing than fussing about some dumb old self care crap.  But here's the point: taking care of yourself will enable you to write more and better. Truly.

An example, taken from my own life: Boracay-beach-paradise-1561148-h

Yesterday, I completed two big projects.  Both are under wraps for the moment, and only one is related to writing, really, but it was an application that necessitated a bunch of thought and filling out.

Today, I'm in full-on fart around mode.  I have a list a mile long to complete–and I'm not doing any of it.  Instead, I'm cruising around the internet, looking at sites I've not checked in on in ages, reading stupid stories about celebrities, wasting time.  

And now, as the day begins to wane, I'm feeling a bit creaky and antsy and unsettled.  How much better it would have been if I'd just said, f$%# it, I took two huge steps yesterday, I'm going to read and knit all day.  In other words, indulge in things I truly enjoy.  Relax after the full-out effort I put in yesterday. In other words, practice self care. 

I don't know why it is so hard to force allow yourself to do this.  Because if you're like me, you'll resist.  You'll sit at the computer, certain that the words will come at any minute, sure that the fog of indecision will lift.  But it won't.  And my day today is a case in point.

(The truth of the matter is, I've had this blog post–which is going to be two parts, by the way–in the works for a couple of weeks.  And it is sheer coincidence synchronicity that my behavior today so aptly proved my own point.)

So, here's the deal: you need to take a freaking break already!

Spoken by the same woman who constantly exhorts you to write every day.  So let's go at this from a slightly different angle, with a handy-dandy list of Possible Signs You Are Burned Out and Need to Replenish:

1.  You have a hard time focusing.  You can't seem to concentrate on the words in front of your face, or you land or a website and wonder why you clicked on it. Then you click on another one and remember why you were on the first one and so you go back there, read for awhile, then head over to the second website.  While your writing file sits open and ignored.  Yeah, that.

2.  You can't connect with the story of your WIP (work in progress).  You remember vaguely that its about…a woman…who does something.  But you can't recall what in the hell it is she does, or the name of any of the other characters or why you wanted to write it in the first place.

3.  Your eyelids get heavy when you open your WIP file, and you don't feel like writing, you feel like sleeping.

4.  The People magazine website is suddenly the most interesting thing you've ever seen.  And you are compelled to read mindless puff articles about people you've never heard of before.

5.  A glass of wine is the thing that you need right now, at this moment, because it is five o'clock somewhere.  And once you take the first sip, it is all downhill from there…

The first three of this list are the most important to heed because they are the most insidious.  You won't ever realize you are doing them until you look back at the end of the day and see that you've accomplished nothing.  Nada.  But even worse, you likely won't identify the root cause of your behavior as needing self care.  No, you will beat yourself up and tell yourself what a lazy ass you are.

How do I know this? Because I do it all the time my friend told me about it.

So, start paying attention.  Take a break.  Figure out some ways that you can do self care that isn't goopy.  How, you ask?  That is the subject of part two of this post, coming right up whenever I can quit procrastinating.

What is your favorite way to waste time?

Photo by The Wandering Angel.

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #26

Here we are once again, at Saturday.  How does that keep happening?  Its a miracle.  And here are your prompts for the week.  Remember, for a dose of daily inspiration, check out my Tumblr blog, where I post a new prompt every day (except for the rare occasion when I forget).  Happy writing!

#177 The wind howled and the rain poured down.  She stared out at the falling water, mesmerized.  It reminded her of the time that…..

#178 It’s Martin Luther King day.  Write about freedom.  What does it mean to you? Your character? For some it is a very high value( i.e., having freedom to set your own schedule, do the work you want, etc.), others, not so much. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

#179 Write about a time when the clock ticked so slowly you thought you’d die of boredom.  Now write about a time when the minutes flew by—and you actually wanted them to slow down.

#180  That shiver of dread.  Because, when she looked out the window, she saw….

#181  Family, love it or hate it—either way, it shapes us.  Is your character (or you) part of a close-knit family, or one that could care less about each other? How did this affect him or her growing up?  How does it affect him now?

#182 She got so damn mad at herself when she wasted time that way, which was often.

#183  You're sitting in a booth in a bar, working on your laptop.  A man and a woman sit in the booth next door and you hear them argue.

"You always want to do such stupid things," she says.

"But at least I'm not a stick-in-the-mud like you," he answers back.

Write the rest of their argument.