As a prolific writer, I find it hard to take even one day off of working on my craft. In my mind, a day spent not writing is an unfinished day, as if I’d skipped exercising or went to bed without having dinner. But every now and then the unpredictability of life pops in and you have to take time to pause.
This happened to me recently as a family member was suddenly admitted to the hospital. After a long, unproductive week of experiencing torturous writer’s block, I had finally fallen back headstrong into writing my dystopian series, when a sudden, shrill phone call put a halt to everything. Instead of delving into my imaginary world of telepathic plants, domed cities, and half-man half-animal hybrids that make up make latest novel, I found myself once again sitting in a hospital room waiting for my mother-in-law’s test results. (Those of you who follow my blog know that several months ago I spent several days hanging out in the hospital while my wife recovered from cancer surgery).
When I was younger this sort of interruption in the novel-writing process would have driven me crazy. Back in my early writing days I was obsessed and starved for success. My first few novels were written with the “fever” and almost nothing could have dragged me away from the keyboard. From the age of eighteen until thirty, my novels took precedent over all else; friends, family, lovers; everything.
As I get older, life appears to throw more and more obstacles that a young writer hasn’t yet experienced and therefore can’t judge how to react, aging parents being the topper. Though the compulsive drive to write still harpoons me daily, I have also found a certain level of peace in dividing my time making sure those I care about can hammer through tough times. My books are and will forever be my “children” and I will never ignore them or let them fade away into cyberspace, but I’ve also come to realize that our mortal time on this planet is finite and there must be a balance between writer and human being.
One must spend time outside the imaginary worlds to be a part of real life.
So, as I spend another day in the hospital waiting room and not writing my latest novel, I find myself feeling not agitated and anxious to be away from my work, but actually calm and accepting of the curve balls that life sometime throws at you. Taking pause and helping others can be the best refresher any writer can enjoy.
-- I also wanted to include a response I got from my previous post on having writer's block that I think hits the nail on the head.
I think the human mind is like my grandfather's fields. They are rich and black and whatever you put into them rewards us with bushels of amazing crops and keeps the wolf at bay from the door. Naturally as a good "steward" of the earth, he emptied out the cattle barn every spring and doused the land with steaming black cow poo flying out the back of his manure spreader. He would have on his agenda when the plants began to come up to a certain height go out and plow the furrows to rid them of any errant weeds which might choke the life out of the crop. He would then sit back and wait.
Sounds like you Neil. Wake up each morning and plow, weed, cultivate and harvest year after year. The missing piece - all of us and the farmer's fields need a fallow time. In the north it is called winter and everything gets quiet and rests. My grandfather knew that there would be years when he would have to change the crop; let it rest; plow something under and wait. The mind needs to rest after such steroidal creativity. It obviously was frightening because it came unexpectedly, but your mind knew. It knew it had to rest, to sleep, to be unproductive in order to be the best it can be later.
Congrats, the pipes are thawed and the electricity is on - away you go. The mind likes a rest once in a while.
By Katherine Edwins Schumm