Monday 5 July 2010

Give yourself permission to NOT write

I've just spent a very enjoyable evening doing nothing but knitting a sock, and watching the first three episodes of Castle. Now, most evenings, I make myself sit down and do some 'work'. It might be drawing, or working out some more 'punchlines' for my forthcoming comic, or it might be working on the next instalment of my serial, The First Tale. I might even be writing another Friday Flash, or deciding what I'm going to blog about. I might be rewriting my novel, or figuring out what I'm going to say in my next AudioBoo. I don't know about you, but that looks like a fair amount of things to be doing in my 'free' time.

'Not finding the time to write' is a common complaint of writers. Other creatives say they simply cannot find the time to create. "Modern life is so hectic", they say. "I have a full-time job and three kids and an invalid parent to care for," they cry. I can fully sympathise with the full-time job issue. Of the approximate seventeen hours I am aware, I have just four to spend on myself, and everyday errands. That's without a family to take up my time!

There are a myriad of blogs out there that will tell you it's okay to cut down your TV time by 15 minutes, or it's healthy to wake up 15 minutes earlier, or that no one will mind if you skip something else in order to write. You can "give yourself permission" to write. It's a very valid argument, and I agree with it wholeheartedly - there probably is a lot of junk in your day that could be safely jettisoned to make room for your creative pursuits. However, creative people often don't like to do anything creative because it's fun. It doesn't feel like work. It can often feel like an indulgence when there are errands to run or chores to do.

That being said, I'm here to tell you it's also okay to give yourself permission to NOT write. Normally, I've got so many projects on the go and so much that I want to do that I get stressed out if I don't get it all done (which would be impossible anyway, unless I somehow found a way of adding more hours to the day). If I hit a creative block, I panic. The work I want to do becomes work that I need to do and thus it becomes actual work, rather than 'work', if you get what I mean. Once that happens, I don't want to do it any more, and then I become frustrated with myself because I start procrastinating, and stop producing. It doesn't help that all these books and blogs seem to be telling me that I need to be writing almost continuously in order to really be 'a writer'. So now I'm not a real writer because I'm not writing every minute of every hour of every day? Golly, talk about pressure!

Yet it has been a wonderfully relaxing couple of hours after I told myself it was alright not to do any writing (aside from this post) for one single evening. I've made some decent progress on my sock (this is the left one I'm currently working on - eventually it will look like the right sock I've posted a photo of up there) and I've discovered a new TV show that combines my interest in crime dramas with my love of Nathan Fillion and a consideration of the writing process - win! As it happens, various ideas have been ticking over in my brain and now I feel refreshed and rejuvenated - ready to start writing on my way to work tomorrow.

So give it a go. Give yourself permission to have a night off, and see what wonders you can accomplish.


Anonymous said...

Everyone needs some time to let the batteries recharge. Good post, Icy.

Isn't Nathan Fillion just too cute?

Cat Russell said...

Nice post. I agree wholeheartedly.

Marisa Birns said...

Amen! Problem I have lately is that giving myself permission not to write turns out to be more than one day! :)

Love Nathan Fillion! Castle is a great show. His mother is just too much. :D

Impressed by your knitting skills, Icy!

Anonymous said...

This is why I like going to band practice. It's a night out doing something other than domestic chores or trying to write. (Having a bad night at band practice can be akin to creative blockage, though).
With a family, I give myself permission to write once a week, but trying to extend it, in order to improve and edit.
And sometimes, you just can't beat trashy telly. And I won't miss Doctor Who if at all possible.
Adam B

Benjamin Solah said...

I really think this needs to be said. Great idea. Often I feel guilty about having the night off, just playing PlayStation or wasting time online but it's all about recharging isn't it?

It makes you want to come back to the page more eager than the day before.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Exactly. People give themselves permission to have time off from other activities or duties, so why not writing? I certainly feel better today for it, although I guess I did "cheat" in some respects since knitting is still productive in its own way!

Anonymous said...

Gosh - I should have done myself a favour and read this last week and the not worried about it!

The only problem obviously with saying "no" is screwing up your schedule like I did... and then still having to pull a rabbit out of a hat to cover my column (really quite stupid and a bad habit I'm falling right out of as soon as these holidays are over!)

I like to say no to do other things... read, watch the occassional bit of TV, soak in a bath, go for a walk, spend quality time with my family etc.

Lovely to read this after the day I've had. Now to consider if I edit... or if I go and wash the dishes and then have an early night with my book?

Icy Sedgwick said...

I'd say, go and have an early night - then you'll be bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready for editing tomorrow!

JJ said...

This post contrasts with a number of other posts saying that writers should write every day but you have a valid point. What's the point in writing at all if you're not enjoying it? It's important to take time out to see things with a clear head.

Icy Sedgwick said...

That was what I wanted to say. Being told you "should" write every day is the recipe for making one very stressful writer!

C Bailey said...

I love the sock. That's excellent work.

I think you've hit on something. The always and never advice hinders more than helps. Flexibility works better. I certainly don't want to write today. Don't think I will :).

Icy Sedgwick said...


There are always a million other things you can do that will provide the inspiration and fodder for writing. After all, if you spend all your time writing and no time living...what are you going to write about?

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