These are the first words I’ve written in days. There is something called NaNoWriMo happening right now. I think I’m supposed to be writing a novel or outlining one at least. I have a list of publications to check out and query for my freelance business. I haven’t looked into a single one.
I was feeling a little guilty about slacking. Then I remembered writing’s my job. And I’m on freaking vacation. It’s okay to take a break.
I think a lot people still have this romantic notion of writing. That putting words down is akin to communing with the muses in some kind of mystical séance. Great ideas present themselves out of the ether and the writer uses her finely tuned creative sensibilities to forge the perfect combination of words to express those ideas in such a way that is not only crystal clear but poetic and beautiful.
I really wish that were the case. But for me, writing is work.
I like the way George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame boils it down:
I don’t like to write, but I like having written.
This is not always true, of course. Some days the writing just flows, effortless and easy. There’s no struggle. It’s like I’m a stenographer to that muse I mentioned, just taking down her testimony. Those days I like to write. But there are other days, the majority I would say, where the muse peaces out to go inspire some other lucky dope with a laptop and I’m left slogging through the mire. Those days putting together a coherent paragraph, let alone a beautiful one, is torture.
The process is not always pretty, that’s for sure. But the product. The product is something I love. That’s what keeps me going on those difficult days: the thrill of a finished story, the shine of a polished article. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’m proud of the work.
But I’m on vacation, the first one in a while, and I’m taking a break from the work.
Um, no, I hear you say. Real writers write, come hell or high water, every damn day.
I don’t. I know you’re supposed to. All the great writers say you need to write and write often. Writing is a muscle. If you don’t use your words they’ll atrophy and the part of your brain responsible for your literary creativity might as well be amputated. Avoid this fate worse than death, the great ones say, by writing every day for at least a few hours. It’s kind of like a writerly commandment sealed with the blood, sweat, and tears of any author worth their salt throughout the centuries.
Well, I needed a break, okay? And I took it, and it’s been fantastic. I mean, you saw the view right? How am I supposed to write about demons and darkness when I’m looking at that sparkling ocean all day? The truth is I can’t and I haven’t. I’ve been having a fabulous time with my family in the sun and sand from the plumeria-scented morning till the painted-sky sunset. There will be time for lifestyle articles and nightmare creatures when we’re back in drizzly, cold Seattle.
For now, I’m playing, if only for one more day. I’m playing and I’m reading.
Oh, yeah. Did I forget to mention that? I’m doing the other thing that all great writers implore the wannabes like me to do. Read. It’s the other commandment, carved just as deeply into that sacred stone. Write a lot. Read a lot.
So maybe I’m not totally slacking after all. Or maybe I am. Either way I’m cool with it.
*Closes laptop. Sips mai tai. Takes a dip. Relaxes in beach chair. Flips to the right page. Starts the next chapter.*
Image credit: Have Children Will Travel