Tuesday, 18 March 2014

24 /7 - by Linda Strachan

'Normal people have at least a day and even whole weekends off. Writers tend to go at it 24/7 - even when doing other chores you are often thinking over writing stuff.   Take a day off. Don't feel guilty about it! '  

A writer friend of mine told me this recently.  Like many children's authors I have just finished a busy series of author visits in the weeks around World Book Day. There is much that is related to writing, but not actually getting words down on the page.  All the other writing-related things that intrude on writing time, preparing for events and workshops, admin, all the many things that are not actually writing.  

I had mentioned that I had a couple of deadlines to meet and also this blog to write.  She said we often forget  '..how important it is to sometimes stop stressing about what you are writing now/about to write/have no ideas to write about - and simply take time out to stop and smell the daisies.'  She was right.

But then I find that even while watching a film an idea pops into my head, a way to solve a plot problem.  

Reading a book I often get irritated by lazy writing, or captivated by the skill of the writer.
I find myself analysing the reasons why a particular set of characters are so engaging, or why I am left cold by another storyline.  It is all very well, but there have to be times when a writer can take a day off.

Even social media is full of writers or writing related information, quizzes, articles that catch your eye.

So I took a day off  -  sort of.  

1.  I settled down to watch an old favourite film (and got an idea for something I am writing).  

2.  I went to spend time with family (and ended up reading a couple of picture books to little ones- Hmm that picturebook idea I had...)  

3.  I decided to do some spring cleaning (and cleared up my working space)

4. I went for a walk by the sea (Atmospheric! These pesky ideas, they get everywhere.)

So it seems I am not really very good at taking time off.  Even going for coffee and cake with friends (they are often writers and we end up talking about writing.)

Taking time off is a state of mind and I feel all the more refreshed by knowing I was free to NOT think about deadlines and things I had to do.  So I think my friend was right.  

How do you take time out?


Linda Strachan  is  Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh 

Author of over 60 books for all ages including the bestselling Hamish McHaggis series, teenage novels and a writing handbook  Writing For Children   

Her latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me  

website:  www.lindastrachan.com
blog: Bookwords


Stroppy Author said...

I think your friend is wrong. You don't have time off being a writer any more than you have time off being a parent or a human being - or anything that is a defining role rather than a job. It's an illusion. Sorry. Back to work!

(Perhaps there is a clue in how you describe what you do/are. If you say 'I work in a...' it's not part of your identity. If you say 'I am a...' how could you have time off?)

Sue Purkiss said...

Love the pictures!

Joan Lennon said...

Maybe it's a question of changing gear, while still driving, that brings refreshment?

Linda Strachan said...

I do think my friend was right, but I think you are right, too, Stroppy.
Like Joan says about changing gear.
It is all about state of mind when your 'job' is writing. Time off is not about stopping it is about taking time without the pressures of 'I should be doing..' and letting the mind drift.

Linda Strachan said...

Sue, I love being beside the sea. I think it would be difficult to live anywhere else. The first is a holiday picture and the second is near home in East Lothian.

catdownunder said...

I'll have to agree with Anne. I "write" while I am doing almost everything else. It is just there, part of who I am. If I didn't do it that way I wouldn't get any writing done. I may not be a "real writer" - a published author - like most of you but the compulsion is always there. Even when things get really bad and I say I want to stop I know that it is not going to happen because I'll read something, see something, hear something, feel something that says "Use me. I'm a story. I want to be told." It's been that way since I was old enough to understand what a story is - even though I don't understand why or how it happens.

Emma Barnes said...

I do often get my best ideas while running the dog...having been completely stuck sat in front of my computer. Sometimes I tell children in schools that a break is the best thing...or a little bit of chocolate...if only they can get their teachers to agree!

John Dougherty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Dougherty said...

Excellent post, Linda. I sometimes feel guilty if I'm not actually at my computer when I feel I 'should' be - but of course I'm still writing!

Ann Turnbull said...

I make sure I always go for a walk for up to an hour every day. Sometimes I think about stories, but not usually. I count it as a bonus if I do find myself thinking creatively.

Cat, you may not have the pressures of a published writer, but you are still a "real" writer.

Linda Strachan said...

Cat, as Ann said you are a writer. I have read your writing!

Ann I think walking or any exercise is a must for writers, clears the head.

Thanks, John! I think that is really what this post is about, that guilty feeling when we think we are perhaps not writing, but in fact inside our heads it goes on all the time!

Emma...chocolate - definitely!

catdownunder said...

Ann, Linda - that's very nice of both of you but, according to my family, my friends and my acquaintances here I should "just give up and do something more useful because you'll never get anything published". (It's all right - I am ignoring the advice about giving up.)

madwippitt said...

You can't stop ideas from popping into your mind (and it can be a good idea to jot them down in a notebook while they're fresh) but I think it's important to have some 'me' time when you can step away from the keyboard and not feel guilty about it. When you can let your mind freewheel a bit. Or, if Life interrupts your writing schedule, to let it go and not get stressed by it ...