Following on from Paul’s column yesterday (in a weird sort of fashion) – I work hard, I write hard and I only every put it 110% to everything I do. I can thank both my parents for the Protestant work ethic which was drilled into me from an early age. But over the past few weeks I’ve discovered sometimes it is just as important to play hard or do some serious chilling out. That being away from the page is just as essential to your life as a writer as being at/with the page.
We flew out of Brisbane two and a bit weeks ago to return to my hometown for the birth of my Godson and to see my little sister married. I decided to do something unprecedented after a few exhausting months – to step away from my writing, editing and publishing commitments and have a proper break. Almost every other holiday I have had in the past five and a half years has just been work in a different location. This is both the joys and the shackles of having a computer which travels simply and easily with you.
The time away from the stress (OK and the excitement) of writing and all the spin-offs associated, has given me a chance to reconnect not only with the people I love, but with some of my other passions. This holiday I’ve had a chance to indulge in photography again – spurred on by a gorgeous baby, a beautiful couple and long time WA reader Benjamin Solah who has been participating in the 365 day photographic challenge. I love seeing the world through a camera lens. Capturing and recording a moment forever. It’s the perfect panacea for a writer who rails again descriptive narrative. A photo does tell a thousand words and encapsulates all types of stories in a succinct but profound manner.
I also scheduled September – knowing we would be away and Mercury Retrograde – to re-read some of my all time favourite books. To date I’ve managed to get through Lightning by Dean Koontz and The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Whether I get through Clive Cussler’s Sahara before I return next Tuesday remains to be seen. There will possibly be some assessing of the all time favourite books list, but a better understanding of why certain books have influenced me and why they are important, even if they no longer classify as “most favourite”. It’s also been a good review of my journey as a writer and reader over the past 15 or so years – what wowed me in a book then and what wows me now.
Moving away and getting perspective has allowed me to see my writing committments in a new light. Last week I divested the last of the writing committments which no longer served the path I want to follow. It was a face off between a looming deadlines on a column I’ve felt only mildly interested in writing for the past couple of months versus the enticement of time at the beach to put my priorities into order. I’ve also been able to see my way clear of a lot of the static which has held me back from completing projects and found simple and productive ways to attack my backlog of rewriting. This will only put me in better steed when I return to the page.
A holiday from the page has additionally given me a chance to get some head space away from the constant nattering of my characters, from untangling plot dilemmas and having my mind always in creative overdrive. To simply exist. As much as I love my characters and their stories they are almost as exhausting as my five year old son. It is the sort of quiet which is perfect preparation for the downhill run into November and NaNoWriMo.
While taking a break from life to do writing is important, taking a break from everything is often what we need as writers and human beings to fill up, recharge, relax, reconnect and regroup. Now I’m really ready to face all the challenges which stand between now and Christmas.