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This Writing Life: Permission to Take Time Off

3 March, 2011

Yesterday, I had what I can only describe as a mini-meltdown. For the third day in a row, I spent the morning and early afternoon working on a short story, then went straight onto proofreading. After that, housework. By the evening, when it came time to cook a meal and go out to my ‘day job’, I was exhausted and grumpy. I seemed to have completely run out of energy and all I could think was, “I’m working so damn hard but I never seem to get anywhere. Why do I even bother?”

It was a bit of a dark and depressing mood to fall into, particularly when hard work usually gives me an uplighting sense of achievement. After I’d cheered up, it didn’t take me long to work out what the problem was: I’d been working too hard and almost run myself into the ground.

Today, I’m taking it easier. I had an extra hour in bed, then proceeded to finish that short story. Next up will be exercise, lunch and an afternoon of reading and relaxing. Maybe I’ll do some more proofreading. More likely, I’ll bake a cake, finish a book and play World of Warcraft.

Why am I posting about this? Because this week I’ve reminded myself of something that all of us need to remember sometimes. Hard work is great: in fact, it’s entirely necessary to get anywhere in the writing world. However, having a meltdown because you’re overworked isn’t great and it’ll only hurt your productivity – and health – in the long run. Sometimes, we just need to give ourselves permission to take time off. If you’re a published author with deadlines, that might be a couple of weeks away from the keyboard after you’ve handed in a book. For those of us without deadlines, that time off might be as simple as an afternoon spent browsing the shops (usually bookshops in my case!) or going for a walk.

Whatever you choose, just remember that as important as writing is, it does not have to be your whole life – and you’ll probably enjoy it more if it isn’t.

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