Last year I wrote three and a half books, boom boom boom. They just kept coming, sentences and ideas, it was one of those vibrant creative experiences that you can’t predict or precipitate, but can only ride while it happens.
I’d started on the fourth book before the down cycle began. It was partly due to a demanding month at my day job, soon followed by other distractions. I caught a bad cold, and six weeks later I caught another bad cold because I guess the first one wasn’t enough. I flew to a work conference, and then the next weekend I flew to a wedding and Disneyland. Thanksgiving was a nice break, if short. A family funeral was intense, but good, and resulted in us taking an elderly cat into our already pet-packed household.
I wasn’t especially into reading novels, which is unusual for me. I paused on writing and editing. I did a lot of crossword puzzles and watched all four seasons of “Felicity,“ which was deeply entertaining to revisit.
The winter holidays finally brought a measure of refocus, and the end to my colds at last. The cat, a terribly sweet 18-year-old, faded peacefully out of advanced kidney disease. I finished “Felicity.“ I started reading “A Christmas Carol,“ which I always hanker for right around Christmas. The holiday passed in quiet celebration. And then, suddenly, I was ready to edit again.
Two weeks later, I’ve done two rounds of editing and started a third. My thoughts keep drifting to the half-written novel, to what’s going to happen next. Within days, I know I’ll be opening the Word document and rereading everything up to the point I stopped. And I’m also devouring a new mystery in a series I like, finding that I’m able to concentrate on reading again.
Whether it’s triggered by a stressful interval or a serene interlude, or maybe nothing at all, I’ve learned that the most positive and generous thing I can do for myself is just go with it.
It’s odd how we need that time away from certain pastimes. Away from reading, or reading a specific genre or author, or listening to audiobooks or watching documentaries, or doing puzzles, or whatever it is we might enjoy the rest of the year. Whether it’s triggered by a stressful interval or a serene interlude, or maybe nothing at all, I’ve learned that the most positive and generous thing I can do for myself is just go with it. Don’t read — watch the show instead. Do the crosswords. Edit instead of write, or write instead of edit.
We’ll come back eventually, come back to the projects waiting or the entertainments we set aside. I never regret giving myself a grace period, even if it’s always a little weird while it’s going on, and I wonder if I *should* be doing more of whatever it is. But I shouldn’t.
We need the fallow times as well as the creative and inspired, the down days as well as the up and energized. And everything in between.