My Writing “Retreat”

writer-605764_640Today I did not have to go to work for my “primary” job (yay government holidays), and yet it’s still taken me almost all day to come here and write.

Once upon a time I had this great idea that every time I had a “bonus” day off from work — that is, a day during the week that I had off but that I was not traveling or doing other holiday-like things with friends and family — I would use that as an opportunity to devote A WHOLE DAY to my writing.

There were so many hours today that did not go to my writing. I volunteered with the cats at the Humane Society. I brought the car in for servicing. I walked my dog (twice — once to drop my car off, once to pick it up). I did hours of freelance work. I even did an hour of work for the job that I’m supposed to be “off” from today.

As the day wound to a close, I wondered whether I should post something here or move on to the next step in my revisions for my middle-grade novel. I have been making steady progress mapping out my revision plan using Cheryl Klein’s Second Sight, going through one item in her “revision checklist” at a time. Sometimes the suggestions feel redundant and I consider skipping them, telling myself that I know this story well enough, as well as what needs to change in it, to forgo this or that exercise. But each time I actually do one of them, I discover something new. My next item is to make a master list of everything I want to accomplish in my next draft. Truth be told, that was a far more appealing writing task for the limited time I had left tonight than writing here — but I also told myself back when my Year in Disney Movies project ended that I would come back to updating this blog regularly. And then I promptly abandoned it again for weeks.

Perhaps I am still suffering some sort of hangover from a whole year of a very public writing project, or maybe I just didn’t realize how much of a novelist I am at heart, but lately all I’ve wanted to do is retreat into revision and push the outside world — even a potential audience — away. I’ve accepted that I probably won’t ever be able to write as much as I want to, which is why I’ve made just one writing goal for this year, while I blithely ignore the passing deadlines I set for myself in August when I was working through The Author Training Manual (I think I got stuck at Chapter 2).

Setting goals and holding oneself accountable is certainly important in a writing life. But so is taking time to recover after a work week from hell, pushing all goals and responsibilities aside for time with those you love, and taking care of your body by sleeping, exercising, and resisting the urge to eat cookies for every meal. The truth is that if I stuck to the ambitious deadlines I set for myself through The Author Training Manual, everything else in my life would have suffered — I might have managed to be a more accomplished writer, but I’d also be a miserable one.

So instead I keep reminding myself that what’s important is the daily ritual of writing, of adding one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time. I try to carve out two writing sessions a day, one in the morning for journaling, and one later in the day for my more “goal-oriented” writing (fiction, blogging, etc.) Some days I only am able to grab one of those sessions; once or twice a week I might miss them both. Which gives me a bit of a guilt complex, but that’s really just life.

This feels more like a journal entry than a blog post — I’m sorry that there is no real wisdom or insight here. Just me rehashing the same old writers’ dilemmas, this time in public.

If you’ve made it this far, I’d like to reward you with this wonderful episode of Writing Excuses, which is about ways to keep yourself motivated to keep writing. So much of this episode resonated with me, but what I really love is that it shows that there is more than one way to keep your project moving forward — as long as you find SOME way to keep writing, you are still a writer.

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