Taking time to recharge
This is the first time in almost five days that I’ve opened my laptop to do anything other than a quick check of email. I haven’t blogged. I haven’t put down a single new word of fiction. I even quit carrying my iPad around with me wherever I went. Better yet, I haven’t felt a single pang of guilt about it. How could I do such a thing, especially with a deadline looming less than two weeks away? Easy. A friend was coming into town. For the first time in years, I was allowing myself time to relax and not worry about the next book or editing the current one or anything else like that.
And I loved it.
More importantly, I realize now that I needed it.
I hadn’t hit the proverbial wall, not yet at any rate. But I was racing toward it. I was tired — mentally and physically. I’d been fighting the current book, second and third guessing myself on it for months. I was being distracted by other potential projects. The problem with that was the distractions we just that — distractions. It wasn’t the evil muse trying to tempt me into doing something else. It was my mind telling me I was to the point where concentration was a chore and I needed to take a few mental health days.
Oh, I’d taken the occasional day or evening here and there. But not days at a time. Not staying up late talking with a friend (okay, some drinking of scotch or wine might have occurred as well). Not sitting in a local winery most of an afternoon, sampling wines and just talking — and laughing. Not spending hours walking through the historic district of a nearby town, checking out the small, unique shops there, taking time to eat and sampling more local wines.
In short, I de-stressed and relaxed in a way I haven’t in years.
And, now that the vacation is drawing to an end, I realize how stupid I was not to realize how badly I needed this. Even though it is still way too early for a sane person to be up — quit laughing, Sarah. I’m not saying I’m sane — I feel the difference. I’m looking forward to getting back to work and finishing up the final edits on this book. Then I am going to do something I don’t usually do. Hell, something I haven’t done in the last few years. Once the book is published, I am going to take a week to do nothing. Oh, I’ll catch up on what needs to be done around the house. There are a few repairs I need to make, billing rates to be renegotiated, that sort of thing. But I am going to read. I’m going to do some more “me time” activities. But most of all, I will give my brain time to recharge and reset.
The reason I’m writing about this is simple. I see too many fellow authors fall into the trap I found myself in. It’s easy to do so because we are indies. We don’t have other writers to fall back on to bring in money if we aren’t producing. So, we tend to jump immediately into a new project as soon as the prior one is finished. We forget that if we allow our bodies or our minds to get too tired, too stressed, we will stop producing at the level we demand of ourselves.
It’s not always easy to recognize when we hit the point where it is step away for a short time or risk having your body or your muse force you away for longer. I certainly didn’t see it. In fact, it wasn’t until yesterday when my friend and I were sitting down to a late lunch/early dinner that I even realized what had happened. It wasn’t even one of those “ah-ha!” moments. I shifted my purse to loop it across the back of my chair when I realized it felt much lighter than it should. There was an instant of panic before realization dawned. I had taken my iPad out earlier that day and hadn’t returned it.
That brought me up short. For a moment, I panicked. I needed my iPad. I would have a few minutes while we waited for food to come when I could do some research or take notes. Then, just as quickly as the panic came, it disappeared. I simply didn’t care that I didn’t have my iPad. It wasn’t important that those few minutes be spent trying to cram work in. I was out with a good friend. We were having a good time and, for the first time in much too long, I felt good. Also, even more telling, I didn’t feel guilty about not working.
That, let me tell you, is something new.
It also wasn’t permission to delay returning to work. It was the admission I’d needed this and a realization that I needed to give myself permission to step away for more than a few hours on a regular basis.
Sitting in the local winery down the street from the library — oh, that might have been a mistake. Now I will be tempted to go there to work instead of the library — I started to sub-consciously take notes on the setting. What was it about the small public area that put everyone at their ease? That sort of thing. I paid attention to how the servers interacted with people. My friend and I got so caught up in the wine (some damned good wine, btw) and cheese and meat platter, we forgot we’d gone in to try the wine ice cream. But that was okay. We had fun.
As we did the Main Street crawl yesterday, I people watched. Not just those like us who were out for a day but also the vendors, the waiters and waitresses, the barmen. I listened as the bartender at another local winery/wine shop listened patiently to a customer who had returned with a bottle of wine they’d bought there. It seems the wine wasn’t to their taste. They were worried it had turned. It would have been easy for him to tell them he couldn’t do anything about it. After all, he didn’t know how long they’d left the wine uncorked. they hadn’t brought the cork with them, so he couldn’t see if it had dried out. Instead, he asked if it was all right if he sampled what they had. After receiving permission, he did. Then he pulled out the bar’s bottle of the same wine and sampled it, making sure he remembered the taste correctly. After explaining he found no difference, he let the customers try sample (and we’re talking half a glass each) from the house bottle.
The husband didn’t say much. He agreed with the bartender that the two bottles tasted the same. The wife, on the other hand, wasn’t quite a mollified. She wanted to make sure they had actually tasted the wine before they left. Even as the husband sheepishly nodded, the bartender assured her they had. He remembered their visit well enough to add a couple of comments during their interaction to let them know he remembered them. Finally mollified, they took their wine and left — but this was after he offered them another bottle of another wine at a discounted price.
Yes, those two, as well as the bartender will go into a story somewhere along the line.
But, more important, I finally have an inkling of inspiration for a short story due at the end of the month. It, too, came out of yesterday’s trip thanks to my friend, a couple of young and very friendly clerks at one of the shops we stopped at and the little kitten they had adopted as the new shop cat. Those few minutes in the shop, watching the young women carefully tending the kitten and proudly showing her to all, acted as inspiration for a story that had been running as fast from me as I had from it.
There were others I saw while we were out who will make it into a book or a story sooner or later.
What I realized as I took all this in was that I wouldn’t have made the connections, I wouldn’t have stored the mental images, a week ago. I was too tired. I was too stressed. I was going through the motions without the heart, without the feeling.
So here’s my advice. Don’t look at your calendar. Instead, look at the calendar of events in your area. Go online and look for things to do or places to go that you haven’t done before. Give yourself permission to take more than a few hours off. The turn off your laptops and computers, turn off your tablets. Tell yourself that you can take your cellphone with you but you will only use it to answer calls and to post the idiotic pictures of you having fun online. Then give yourself permission to take at least two days to do nothing but fun. Forget about your current writing project. Forget about deadlines. Forget about everything but what is happening in the moment. Better yet, treat yourself to something decadent and just let yourself enjoy, react and decompress. You will thank yourself for it.
By the way, the bread pudding in the picture was to DIE for.
Since I am technically back to work later today, I guess I ought to do something writerly and promote my upcoming book. Fire from Ashes (Honor and Duty book 4) is available for pre-order now. It will be released July 3rd.
At war with an old enemy, betrayed by a supposed ally, Fuercon is a system on the brink of disaster. All that stands between it and defeat are its Space Navy and Marines – and the fact the betrayer does not yet know its secret plans have been discovered. But will that be enough to turn the tide of war?
Honor and duty.
Honor and duty have guided Colonel Ashlyn Shaw’s life for as long as she can remember. Honor kept her sane when she was betrayed by those she had fought beside. Duty gave her reason to trust again once the betrayal came to light and her name, as well as the names of her fellow Devil Dogs, was cleared. Now she and the Marines under her command are once again asked to risk their lives to protect Fuercon from its enemies.
Family and the Corps.
They are why she fights. She knows what will happen to them should Fuercon fall to the Callusians. Their lives are worth any sacrifice she must make to help keep their homeworld safe.
The not-so-secret driving force of Ashlyn’s life. Four years ago, someone betrayed her and her command. That person now works to betray Fuercon. Ashlyn is determined to discover who – and why – and bring them to justice.
The storm clouds of war gather and time is running out. Will Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs be able to turn back the enemy and unmask the betrayer before all is lost?