Knowing When to Take a Break

It feels odd to be writing the above title, since if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll have seen that my posting hasn’t exactly been the opposite of ‘on a break’. I’m certainly more sporadic than I used to be – so it’s almost unfair to say I’m taking a break.

I’m not. Taking a break, that is. I’ll continue to post when I feel like it here, and I do have a couple of posts I need to get up.

However, I have to re-evaluate my attack on my writing work.

No, not attack. ‘Attack’ is too strong a word (*gasp* sacrificing strong words in prose? How unwriterly!). I suppose, however, the mere choice to use attack when I think about my writing work shows just what I have to re-evaluate. You see, I’ve always pushed myself, and that’s something I’m proud of. I certainly wouldn’t be here at 26 (in two days) with an undergrad, a MA from UCL, a team leader role in a corporate company, married and with a baby on the way, and a superfluity of knowledge about the writing industry – if I didn’t push myself to follow my goals, to be the stubborn Taurus star sign and not stop until I’ve achieved my goals.

It’s an attitude I’d love to instil in my own children as they grow up. Indeed, I studied Intelligence as part of my Psych degree; I’m well aware that most accepted theories nowadays advocate that intelligence is neither solely nature nor nurture. Nevertheless, I’d want to give my children the best opportunity to achieve their goals, and to have the a more studious attitude than I’ve had at times. Life is distracted; procrastination is the easy way out.

I’m now on Maternity Leave and, yes, I am enjoying it. I still have so much to do in the last 8-ish weeks before Baby enters the world, so I’m hardly going to be bored, plus I can take my time with my lunchtime walks instead of rushing to squeeze them into 30 minutes to be back in time to make lunch and get on with Day Job work. And, with my Godson’s and nephew’s birthdays coming up, as well as Father’s Day and my wedding anniversary (May-August are by far my most social months of the year!), I have more than enough excuses to walk into town regularly to look for cards and gifts.

In spite of this new bout of free time and my opportunities to spend further time working on writing, though, I’m still not there yet in the publishing industry, in an industry I love and for which I have a passion. And I’m well aware that, for all the concepts I can think up, for all the copy and hooks I can study and write, each of my novels need more work before they’ll be something the industry will love.

And, sometimes – just sometimes – I want to accept that and move on.

I’ve been here before. Not only with my songwriting and my poetry, but with my fiction writing. I completed my first novel aged 14 and wrote, as many teen writers do, a plethora of first drafts between that and age 19, where I received my first full manuscript request in quick succession with the first feedback from a critique partner that suggested, correctly, multiple aspects of the novel needed rewriting.

Instead of submitting it, I shelved that novel. It’s still shelved. I don’t know how best to rewrite it. And that scares me. Some authors I read – Natasha Pulley, Stuart Turton, John Green, Russell T Davies – are so brilliant in their storytelling (so much so that the word deserves italicism and the implication of both its meanings) that I have no idea how I will ever get to that level of clever in my novels. Even now, as I rewrite the ‘call to action’ section of my Steampunk novel, I realise I will have to cut a number of themes and foreshadowing, let alone do some time-hopping, society-reflecting plot that has a true shock twist. I suppose that’s why I market my work as being heavily commercial. You come to me for the plot, not for the literary devices I use – so it’s a bonus when I hit the mark and give more.

Ergo, I’ve been here before. But my techniques for approaching massive rewrite situations have changed – and even with greater day-to-day pressure and Day Job work (gosh, we uni students didn’t know how lucky we were with our free time. Give me essays and research to complete over again!), I managed to focus on rewriting at a pace with which I was happy. Now, however, there’s a tiredness that’s stopping me achieving such methods.

It’s a tiredness that comes with the territory of being pregnant.

Honestly, I don’t actually mind being tired. It’s not an endless tiredness nor a achy feeling of exhaustion unless I spend more than half a day out of the house or those first few minutes of consciousness trying to psych myself up out of bed – not helped by The Husband’s new job requiring a 5am wake up time and pregnancy reminding me that I take longer to get to sleep! It’s more of a mental slump, of not having that motivation to push on with editing or rewriting that I used to. Coffee doesn’t have as potent an effect as it used to, even when I was getting less sleep for my work, and now I find my mind wandering away from the concentrated effort of paragraph after paragraph of good writing.

Plus, a part of me thinks that rewriting has to be, not perfect, but of a better standard than normal writing-from-scratch draft quality. I’ve lost track of what fresh draft this novel H is at now…four, I think?

It’s a lot of pressure – but the thing I have to remember, and not to carry this post on with too much waffling, is that it’s self-imposed pressure. There’s nobody from work asking for stats or to get my SLAs or timesheets in so that the client is happy; there’s no editor or agent on my heels waiting for my polished prose. It’s all me. Because of that, it’s my responsibility to recognise when to push myself to complete rewriting and when to ease up the pressure on myself. That time, I think, is now. The time to recognise – it’s okay to slow down, it’s okay to not achieve all the goals I plan to.

It’s even okay if I start my day off writing what I’ve meant to, and then end up scribbling a 1000-word-plus blog post…

I’ve got a maximum of 9 weeks until I give birth. The nursery isn’t yet sorted, there are still bits that we have to get, and numerous appointments to organise. I would’ve thought I could make use of those weeks to write, but due to the tiredness, I have to recognise that sometimes it won’t come; and I can’t hold that against myself.

We all have peaks and troughs in our lives. I, for one, believe I am in the middle of a peak, and I mustn’t let this positive change in my personal circumstances be derailed by negative thoughts about the lack of progress in my professional life.

I can do this. However I end up spending my Maternity Leave. I’m certainly reading more, the best positive to come out of my free time!

Thanks for reading! I also touched on this in my latest Monday 1-minute (ish) vlog over on Instagram:

You can certainly find me over on Instagram for life-type updates and the occasional bookstagram. But mostly my face and food 🙂 Check the widget feed over on the right there >>> for my Twitter, too, which is where most of my writing updates, thoughts, and progress end up. If you’re a fellow writer or someone looking for a Critique Partner drop me a private message there. My work is mainly SFF, but I am also working on a version of my YA murder mystery at the moment, and read most genres.

Ciao for now!

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