1) It is OK to set time aside to recharge every now and again.
I spent a couple of thoroughly miserable years doing nothing but working a dead-end admin job and watching TV (“I once thought I had mono for, like, an entire year,” to quote Wayne’s World, “but it turns out I was just really bored.”) I didn’t even realize how zombie-like I was feeling until – out of sheer desperation – I went back to school and started picking up as many side projects as I could handle in an attempt to find a different track for my life and get on it as fast as possible. The effect was so revitalizing that I’ve made sure ever since to keep my plate chock full of extracurriculars.
So when I arrived at January thoroughly burned out and kind of broke after the holidays, unable to justify the expense involved in crafty classes and sick to death of all my current projects, I was pretty much resigned to spending the armpit of the year in the slough of despond. But instead, I found that a few weeks’ worth of evenings spent on the couch with books, blogs, and wine was…astonishingly restful. Restorative, even. It helped that one of the first blogs I looked up was Laurie Halse Anderson’s; I took this post about writer’s block as justification for purposefully putting my feet up. Sometimes you need permission, you know?
2) Twitter is awesome.
If you pile a bunch of people onto your feed whose interests align with yours and whose ideas you respect, the result is a treasure trove of fascinating and enlightening reading. @Torbooks posts links to short stories, for instance, something I would only rarely catch up with otherwise. I have discovered blogs about kidlit, blogs about writing, blogs about SFF, blogs of fellow Ottawa writers, blogs about marketing. Book recommendations! Agent websites! It gets to the point where I’m going to have to ration it carefully to keep myself from falling down the rabbit hole. Will have to round up links in another blog post so as to be able to go back to them.
3) Many writers – if not most – keep their day jobs.
I knew, vaguely, that writing is not lucrative unless you write something that sells outlandishly, freakishly well. Still, I was surprised to learn that writing is still an income supplement – because it would be a modest and/or unreliable living – for people with ten books in print or a stack of accolades and awards.
Is it weird that I find this reassuring? Better than finding it discouraging, I guess. I’ve been picking at a post on this topic after reading some interesting back and forth in various forums, so maybe more on this later. The short version: it confirms for me that it is perfectly OK not to stake my living on this particular ambition. It also clarifies what exactly success in this venture means to me, namely writing something – preferably more than one something – that is respectable enough to (a) print and (b) find an audience of some kind somewhere. The lack of fame and fortune involved somehow makes this look a lot more achievable.
All in all, the result of giving myself January “off” is that I’m heading into February feeling shockingly restored. I’ve launched into the next round of editing and elaboration for Ghost Story #1 with enthusiasm and confidence at high ebb. And having set myself the modest goal of 30 pages in 30 days (nice round numbers combined with low expectations make for encouragingly achievable goals) I find myself about a third of the way there on day 3.
I will remind myself to be patient and moderate my excitement later. For now, excelsior!