Separation Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Monday, January 24, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

Long story short, last year wasn't so great, but this is a new year, new resolutions, different commitments.  It is time to give more attention to this blog since I have so sadly let it go by the wayside.

Let's talk about a problem that's applicable to writing, blogging, or any regular activity that you commit yourself to: how does one deal with the guilt that comes with a lapse in discipline.

Not every idea or plan or novel pans out exactly like we imagine it would when the thought first occurred to us.  Sometimes an idea is flawed in its concept, and sometimes life just gets in the way.  It's natural to want to attribute blame to someone or something because hey...we're human. We want to understand the "why" when things go awry. If we can figure that out then the hope is that we can avoid the same mistakes in the future.  But all too frequently I see writers and artists turning that blame back on themselves.  I admit it; I'm guilty of this too. 

Guilt leads to stagnation and that's not a healthy environment to create in. To keep moving forward on your current WIP you have to learn to process that guilt and let it go.  So when you feel that overwhelming sensation creeping up on you, it's time to take a step back and evaluate the causes that have been keeping you from your writing.  Let's say you didn't get as much writing done last weekend as you had planned on because you spent it with a friend who needed the company.  You missed the mark in terms of your writing goals, but instead you were investing your energy in this friend's life and happiness.  Or maybe you decided to invest your energy in your own life and happiness by taking it easy and seeing a movie instead of shutting yourself away in your office for the duration of the weekend.  You decided that whatever it was that you finally ended up doing was more important than hammering away at your current word count.

That can be okay. Recognize those moments for what they are and let them go.  Sometimes you just need it, and sometimes those that are nearest and dearest to you need you too.

Personal confession time: I recently left a long term relationship. I haven’t blogged in ages because it was more important to focus on my emotional health at the time. Sure I felt guilty when I opened up blogger again and noted that it had been four months since my last blog post. Yikes! I work in digital marketing; how pathetic does that look? But I stopped and looked back at 2010 in review. I might have been able to push myself harder to crank out a tepid blog post every now and then, but I probably wouldn’t be feeling as well as I am right now (all things considered).

Before moving forward I had to stop and consider whether blogging was still important to me, and I came to the conclusion that yes, it is. I still want to blog. Now that things are more settled and I am getting back on my feet again, the desire to blog again has become more important than my moping around the apartment. So bear with me over the next few weeks as I force myself back into normalcy.  I may trip up again from time-to-time.  You can smack me around about it on Twitter. :)

After a lapse in discipline take that moment to evaluate. You might find that you don’t really have cause to feel guilty anymore and then you can move on. And you might also reaffirm your belief in either yourself, your goals, or your WIP. You’ll be able to tackle the problem at hand with new vigor.

Now this doesn't remove accountability from the equation or give you, the writer, a free pass to literally Twitter the day away.  You're going to make bad choices.  You're going to keep checking Farmville. There will be times when you do things like I did last weekend and marathon The Office for twelve straight hours without thinking about writing once.  It's important to recognize those moments for what they are too - huge freaking distractions, but if you beat yourself up over it you're just wasting more time and energy that could be better spent writing.  Remember, guilt is also a distraction. 

So instead of focusing on how little writing you got done and feeling guilty about it, take responsibility for those lapses in your daily routine and move on to the solution that will get you back on  track.  So what if you blew off writing on Sunday because you wanted to take your dog to the park? Look to add at least fifteen extra minutes to your weekday writing sessions.  There may only be 24 hours in a day, but there are 168 hours in a week.  Each day brings you new opportunities to make better choices than the last.

How do you cope with "breaks"?  What keeps you coming back to the worlds that you writers are busy creating?


Melissa said...

I tend to go on really long breaks. It's just how I work. I'll write in a frenzy for weeks at a time, working myself into a mad state. Then I'll take several months off - not always out of choice but I have school and usually my writing frenzies leave me with a lot of unfinished other stuff I need to catch up on! I just work better this way and don't feel bad about my breaks at all.

Alleged Author said...

I think it's wonderful when authors can pull themselves out of writing to take "me time." After all, once the words stop you still have to live and dream in this world. Personal relationships and well-being are more important than any book deal.

Plot Junkie said...

My biggest fan (my boyfriend) bugs me too much to let me take breaks any longer than two weeks. He gets impatient and wants to know what happens next.
As far as avoiding or coping with breaks, the best success I have had so far is to go to this writing group every week at a local coffee shop. The beauty of the thing is that we are there to work, not necessarily to critique. Since the group is so small, there is a feeling of urgency to go at least spend some time working in case only one other person shows up. Having the regular time has been helping me keep in the habit of writing, and eventually gets me writing more each session.

The key is to just keep going. Every little bit helps, even if you just write between 20-100 more words a day, it becomes easier to do. Also-you won't be driven to write thousands of words at once to catch up (an act that often hurts more than it helps since the very prospect of accomplishing it can be overwhelming).

Either way, I apologize if any of the preceding text was grammatically incorrect or misspelled. It's late and I think I'm going to pass out now.

Love ya, chica! Keep in touch, ok?

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