Monday, March 25, 2013

Writing Detox

Good Morning. Last Monday I touched on what we Should and Should Not do as writer/authors. Of course, that list is free to interpret any way you wish. I just wish "they" would stop hammering it down our throats. Perhaps if they made them "suggestions" it might be a little easier to swallow.

Anyhow, for the last couple of years, everyone has agreed on this one essential issue where writing is concerned. Something that we all SHOULD do. Write the next book.

I can remember being in query hell, and the resounding response to my "What do I do while I wait for responses to come back?" was write the next book. You need another in the coffer if the agent makes a request. And if not, you'll have another to query when you give up the first one. Write the next book.

Putting a book up on Amazon and debating whether to promote or not, and the resounding response was write the next book. This is a long tail enterprise, and the more books you have out, more readers will find you. Promotion can wait until book four or five. And besides, blog tours don't work. Neither does a Twitter campaign. Just write the next book.

Trying to play the Amazon game, and the resounding response was write the next book. Don't worry about getting reviews, bad reviews, no reviews, whether KDP Select "free" works or not. It's a game, and the only rule is to get the next book out there. The more you have, the better off you'll be. Write the next book.

Okay, so here I sit, after 18 months, with 4 novels and 4 novellas (published) under my belt, with another novel ready to fire up in the next week or so, and what should I do? Why, write the next book, of course.

But you know what, I'm tired of writing. I'm tired of figuring out plot points and inciting incidents and figuring out how to make my heroine less irritable. What I really need is a vacation. A nice long vacation with beach sand in my Virgin Mary, and sun burn on my nose.

But then I think how my books will suffer if I don't write the next one. My readers will be heart broken and leave me if I don't cough up another "something" within 2 months. My sales will plummet to nothing, I'll lose my ranking, my audience, my shot at being #19 again on the New Releases Best Seller List. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there in publishing land, and if you're not top dog, or even mid-list dog, you're nothing.

And then I think I'll lose my mind if I have to sit at the damned computer staring at a blinking curser for days on end wondering how to write when I really don't want to.

We've all heard how we SHOULD write every day. How we SHOULD churn out something, even if it's 500 words of crap. How we SHOULD keep notebooks in the car, by the bed, in the bathroom when inspiration hits.

Yeah, okay, I was on this kick for awhile too. Writing, writing, writing. Letting the house get so bad I could have been a candidate for Hoarders. (Okay, maybe not that bad, but you get the idea. The dust bunnies even packed up once and left.) Ignoring the phone, my mother, my daughter, all for the sake of the next book. I've forgotten how to live in the real world because I've spent so much time with my characters.

And that's just not right. The guilt I have because I'm not sure what to do. I feel guilty if I spend time with my daughter and not writing. And I feel guilty I'm writing and not spending time with my daughter. Or cleaning the house, or mowing the lawn, or for God's sake, just doing laundry and keeping the dishes up.

Until I read one of those posts I mentioned earlier. And this guy, Bob, is his name, said, "You need to detox every once in awhile. You need to take a break to replenish your imagination." (paraphrasing here)

And I KNOW this. I take breaks off the blogs. But this guy was talking about something more. Just walking away from it all -- blogging, social media, writing, marketing, all of it. Just walking away for a good long while, or until the next big idea hits and you can't wait to get back to the keyboard. That, he said, was the key. WANTING to write. (And he's got 50 books under his belt, so he should know what he's talking about.) Writing because you WANT to, not because you SHOULD.

And that, I think, is where I am now. I need a writing break. Detox, if you will. Oh, I'll still blog, for the time being. But I'm not writing. I can't. And why churn out shit, when I know I'll just scrap it all anyway. That, my friends, is an exercise in futility. If I can't write 1000 words of something half-way decent, then why bother.

Tell me -- Do you ever willingly detox? Does it replenish your imagination? Or do you keep working away because you think you SHOULD?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013


Laura Pauling said...

It's easy for writing to become all consuming, but I agree that we shouldn't let it! I get a built in detox every summer when my kids are home. I work on my writing way less hours, I read even more than I do now. I get a little bit of writing done in the morning but that's it. :)

It's okay to take a break.

Bish Denham said...

I've been a sporadic writer all my life. I have gone months, even years without writing. But then when I do start writing, I'm prolific. I used to feel guilty about not writing everyday because, like you, I thought that was what I supposed to do. But it's not how I work. So I gave up the guilt thing, it's a waste of energy.

Write because you want to, not because you have to. Go ahead, sweep that guilt out the door with the rest of the dust bunnies. You won't miss it.

Linda G. said...

I absolutely take breaks. If I don't recharge my batteries (refill the well, replenish the larder, whatever you want to call it...), my writing starts to feel stale to me. I hate that feeling.

Anne Gallagher said...

Laura -- Truthfully, I'm waiting for summer as well. I feel like I've been doing so much writing, I haven't read anything. And I think that's what I need. To read and absorb other people's words for awhile. Thanks.

Bish -- Sweep the guilt out with the bunnies. Yup. I think that's what it going to happen. It's Monday and I just can't stand looking at my house one more second. We're going to clean today.

Linda -- Stale. Maybe that's the feeling I've been having lately. I just don't have the same energy to produce something worth reading these days. I definitely need a break.

Nicki Elson said...

Well, I'm the kind of person who always wants to do what she shouldn't be doing, so I'm still telling myself that I should move on from writing and focus on the other areas of my life that I've let slip (ten-years-ago me wouldn't even recognize now me) and so...I'm still feeling the pull to write quite strongly.

Of course, you'll note that I've got a three year gap between novels so I definitely count detox as part of the writing process. Step away and I'm sure you'll see how all those fresh ideas and excitement - you know, the things that got you writing in the first place - will come right back to you.

Anne Gallagher said...

Nicki -- Had to laugh, Ten years ago me, would still be working 3 jobs and writing on weekends. lol

Yeah, I've known since The EE came out in January I just wasn't feeling the love. I have two stories I really want to work on, but it's just not happening. I think if my house wasn't still such a nightmare from when we moved last summer, it wouldn't be so bad. But now spring is here, I've got the itch to get it in order. Have that huge yard sale I've been talking about. Once that's done, my brain will be cleaned out as well.

J.B. Chicoine said...

Since ranking and sales aren't a big concern for me, I don't feel the same 'push' to get the next thing out there. I have a book I want to publish this spring, but I have no specific date for a deadline because of everything you mentioned in this post--it all becomes too overwhelming when if feels like a MUST.

I have to stories to publish after SPILLED COFFEE, but I don't know when I will publish them, and I have no new story to work on meanwhile. I'm too exhausted to even think about it. I do hope our next writing spurts will coincide so we can egg each other on!

Linda Cassidy Lewis said...

I've just started a months' hiatus from writing. Not because I don't want to write, but because I've been so long in the writing world getting another novel out that like you said: "I've forgotten how to live in the real world ..."

I can't stay there completely, though. I find it hard to read while I'm writing, so for this month I'll knock a few off my TBR pile.

Enjoy your time off. And I hope your Muse works overtime in the background so you come back with a mountain of words to get you started on the next book.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I pretty much don't do any writing over the weekends. I think it helps me have a little breathing space. And then come monday, i'm excited to get back to it again

Donna Hole said...

I think writers need a vacation from writing just as workers need a vacation from work sometimes. Think of all the ideas that will inspire you when you're lounging around on a beach, not thinking of anything. Just soaking up life and all its varied meanings.

Yeah, keep the laptop open to a word document just in case something awesome needs to be jotted down; but don't push yourself for the next book. It will be there when you're ready; and probably sooner because you're not focusing on it.

Just my opinion though. I take a break from writing once in a while because it feels so much like a job - and I have a day job. But I always know I'll get back to writing because I do enjoy it so much.


Jennifer Shirk said...

YES! I do detox, but just to catch up on things around the house and to let ideas or characters stew in my head.
I think its a good thing to get itching to write instead of it being a chore.

Carol Kilgore said...

My name is Carol, and I detox. I call it recharging, but a break by any name is a break.

And it works.

Do it.

Leave your guilt at home under the bed to play with the dust bunnies.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I can't remember who blogged about it, but someone had a post not too long ago along the line of, "I Don't Live to Write." The point was, the gal enjoys writing, and writes when she can, but she lives her life FIRST. You have been writing a lot, one book after the other, and after a while, something has to give. You burn out, and somewhere inside, you feel this vague unease about the other things you've been neglecting. So, by all mean, take a break! De-tox! Smell the roses! Whatever you want to call it, step back from trying to work out the plot of another book for a while. If writing becomes more of a chore than an enjoyment, what's the point? The quality of your writing will suffer if your heart isn't in it.

Anne Gallagher said...

Bridget -- I know how you feel about publishing your next one, but I do wish you would. It's such a fantastic story, I want everyone to read it.

Linda -- Funnily enough, as soon as I said, "I'm not going to write for awhile" I've had all these ideas roaming around in my head for the stories sitting in my hard drive. I guess now, the thing I really need to do is decided which one I'm going to tackle next. After a good hiatus that is.

Sarah -- I wish I couldn't write on weekends but it's the only days my daughter sleeps in and the house is quiet. During the week the day gets broken up and I find I have other things to do before I can actually sit down in my jam-jams and write.

Jennifer -- A few years ago, I found detox helped with writer's block. But this time I think it's just a matter of stepping away without anything else stewing. Although, as I said above, my brain won't turn off.

Donna -- Problem is, this IS my JOB now, and I do need to focus somewhat. But I need to slow down. I can't keep pushing myself like I did last year. It's not healthy. And I think I need to get back to some semblance of a good schedule.

Carol -- lol. Yes, the guilt is getting pushed under the bed. Thanks.

Susan -- Yup, that's what I've been feeling. It's a chore and not something I enjoy. I think if the weather would break I would be in a much better place, but it's so cold still, I can't get outside. I think that's what I really need, some outside time.

February Grace said...

You've been working so hard, so long, you are more than due for a break.

Please, whatever you do, don't ever feel guilty for spending time with your daughter instead of writing.

She'll be grown and gone before you know it, and then you'll have more hours in a day to fill than you know what to do with. Trust me, I know from experience.

I wish you rest and relaxation-- and then when you're ready, I wish you that idea so exciting that you cannot stay away from the keys. It will be there, I know it.


DL Hammons said...

There's a period of time following the completion of a book where I don't feel like writing at all, but I wouldn't consider that detoxing. Don't believe I've ever hit that phase yet. :)

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I love this post. I want to hug it and fold it up and put it in my pocket. LOVE. Because I know how you feel. I have four books out now, soon to be five I hope, and writing the sixth. I've written nine total. I just keep writing, writing, writing. The good thing is I WANT to keep writing right now, but as soon as I need a break, I know I'll have to detox just like you are going to. The key really is to want it.

Liza said...

No matter what you do, everyone needs a break. If you were working 40-60-80 hours a week at a traditional job, you'd get a vacation, right? A lot of places force you to take your vacation so you don't burn out because they are necessary. They help you be more productive after the fact. Take a break. Take long walks. Go visit places you've always wanted to see...even locally if a getaway vacation isn't in the cards. Drive around. Mow the lawn, paint the deck, bring your daughter out for lots of ice cream. Don't worry. You'll feel like writing again soon. (PS, I took a break this afternoon. My brain is I picked up piles of dead branches in the yard, instead of making my 600 words from this morning build to 1000 this afternoon...and I feel better as a result.)