I haven’t been writing. It’s been about a month now. Not one single new word of fiction. It started slowly, with growing dissatisfaction with what I was writing. I was increasingly, bitingly, critical of everything I wrote. I was working on a new novel, the second in a series, and I couldn’t stand it. So I put it aside and started work on a short story I’d been thinking about for a while.
It was even worse. Not only did I hate what I was writing, I realized I was deeply unhappy.
I had no idea where that had come from. Unhappy? With writing? Writing has always been a joy—my happy place, my can’t-wait-to-find-out-what-happens-next place. I looked forward to coming home from work every day so I could play in the story. Looked forward to the weekends because they meant long, luxurious, uninterrupted hours of writing.
I finally realized that my subconscious was trying to tell me to take time off.
I’d taken time off, of course. Holidays. Busy times at work where I’d come home too pooped to write. Times where I thought: the heck with this, millions of people spend their lives not writing and they’re perfectly happy—I can do it, too.
It never lasted more than a week.
But this time, the malaise went deeper. I was exhausted—from life, work AND writing. So I gave myself permission to stop writing (since I couldn’t quit life or work), for however long I need to.
I gave myself a pass on the guilt, too. You know, the “I really should be writing” guilt whenever I found myself with a spare minute. Instead, I’m working on publishing my e-novels in trade paperback format. And I’m having fun again. I find it deeply satisfying to play with cover images and fonts—a totally different area of creativity that I hadn’t suspected I would like.
I think of it as lying fallow, like the farmer’s field that isn’t seeded and is just left to regenerate and build up its nutrients. I’m regenerating my creative energy. Or maybe it’s like the farmer who plants a completely different crop, a nitrogen-building crop that will help the soil regain its fertility.
Does this happen to you? How do you deal with it?
I know I will be getting back to writing, probably sooner rather than later. Already I feel the odd tingle of an idea tickling my subconscious. But until then, here’s what I’ve been working on: