And hey, while I'd like to believe that I could keep going for a string of hours long enough to make up a day without breaks because I am just that willful, it's not true.
There's a difference between taking breaks because you can't get motivated and taking breaks because you've tapped all the juice in this well. If you've been there, then you probably know it. It's the difference between "ugh, that prose is gross and I don't want to deal with it yet" and "I am so exhausted coming up with fresh scenes and rewriting the past whatever many pages that I just cannot deal."
In the first case, yeah, that's about time for an act of will: time to put on the big author pants and suck it up. For the second one, though, when you're creatively fatigued, then maybe it's time to give in and do something different.
At one of my elementary schools, there were these kids who would come in after the school day had ended and we'd all gone home and, just like we had our assigned seats, so too were they assigned to desks in our classroom. You never got to see the kid who had your desk in person, but you'd see relics of their passing: an eraser that they left behind, a tennis ball missing from the feet of your chair.
And sometimes their actions would affect you. You could get a cool eraser or rescue a pen they forgot, or you wouldn't be able to erase their desk graffiti fast enough before a teacher checked on you.
It was cool when things were good, but also weird-- thinking that in some inverse world there's another person who sits at your desk at night, plays with the stuff you leave there, rearranges and changes some things, and leaves it there for you to find in the morning. Sometimes I feel like our relationship with the subconscious mind (if, oh God, this doesn't sound too psych class for a Monday morning) works the same way.
Your subconscious is part of the powerhouse generating your ideas. It's a cog in the creative machine, and just like you're taking care of other aspects of yourself, like going to the dentist, doctor, keeping healthy, sometimes you need to make sure the part of you that takes over when the lights go out is okay, too.
I love that we're dedicated and we're willing to work ourselves to death. That grit is what makes you succeed, for sure. But, on this hectic Monday and new week when no one really wants to go back to work, take a little time to recharge creatively.
Maybe it's scrolling through tumblr pictures of fantastic landscapes (or, tumblr pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch, because there's no judgement in the land of creative revitalization) or maybe it's reading a book, watching a few episodes of a TV series you love, knitting, or taking a walk. Do something else. Anything that gets you to stop thinking about whatever you're working on for a while, lets it sift over to the subconscious' side of the desk.
Sometimes when I'm crazy exhausted or have a big decision to make about how plot stuff goes, I go to sleep. And usually, after hours of not thinking about it, I'll figure out how to make things work when I'm in the shower or eating cereal, or trying to figure out how on earth eyeshadow works again. Sometimes it happens after ten hours of grad school, when my brain has been working on totally different stuff.
You've been told enough already that you have to be insanely dedicated to make writing work, and you know that it's still true. This takes a lot of effort. Just don't beat yourself up if you need a break sometimes, because, hey guess what, we all do.
When Alex Yuschik isn't writing her next YA novel, she's working on someone else's as an intern at Entangled Publishing. She writes about lock picks, ghosts, the abandoned places in cities, and how not to strike bargains with stars. Between sneaking in time to game and rocking out to indie music, Alex spends the rest of her free time working towards her PhD in mathematics. You know, as one does.
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