I read an blog post for a Facebook Friend about burning out and the symptoms and it led me to relive something I went through fairly recent. Last year we had an extremely intense family emergency and as I struggled to come to terms with the tragedy I found I couldn't write. Being in the middle of a trilogy - this proved to be problematic. My self-imposed timeline for finishing and submitting crept closer and all I could do was stare at the blinking cursor.
However, a castle and tiny village on a certain Facebook game flourished.
Sounds like a time waster - and it was - but that's all I was a capable of. After about three months of this un-Maddie-like behaviour I e-mailed my editor and told her what happened so that she wouldn't think I'd fallen off the planet. I owe her my loyalty and she has expectations of what I can produce, so she needed to be brought into the loop. Then, I granted myself a reprieve from writing.
By saying that I mean I literally told myself I didn't need to write. I slipped the external drive off my computer, wrapped up all hand written notes and turned off the computer. I watched TV with the family, actively pursued more time with friends, enjoyed my grandchildren and healed. I also had loads of time to think.
What did I learn from all this?
While I enjoy writing, it no longer consumes my every waking moment. At first there was extreme guilt. My word count languished while others flourished. Then I read an article about Jackie Collins. She stated that she wrote only one page a day (long hand if you can believe it) and that's all she wrote. This one sentence resonated in me. One page a day, I could do that and I have.
Some days my page is research, but everyday I face the blank page and write. There have been moments when words fly through my fingertips onto the keyboard and other days when creativity hides from me, but once the page is finished - the rest of the day is mine to do with as I please and I'm happy again.
Why did I share this?
Because we need to remember that as writers we are creative people. We transform thoughts and emotions into words on paper so others can experience them with us. But we are also mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmas and grandpas. We absolutely have to balance all these things in our live and not be guilt ridden. If that means taking a break from the fifteen inch screen, then do it. Enjoy this finite time we've been given to be on the planet. Tell yourself - one page a day is okay.
I'm off to work now, and if I don't write another thing today that's okay - I'm counting this as my page.