From self-doubt to burn-out to emotional exhaustion, the immediate remedy isn’t always to write.
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. - Denis Waitley
Yesterday, I woke up with a horrendous kink in my neck and cramps, leaving me a useless lump on the couch with a hot water bottle and vocal outbursts of pain.
My hope for humanity and a better life for my future daughters was blown out of the water this week as I heard news story after news story of women being violently ended by men all around the world.
To top it all off, writing seemed like an impossible feat as I analyzed how desperately low my stats have been this week.
I felt as low as low can get.
So what did I do? Well, I can tell you one thing — I didn’t write or publish a single story.
For the first day in 2 months, I missed a day of writing.
And you know what? That was the best choice I could have made for myself.
Writing is not always the answer.
There are writers out there who will swear up and down that no matter how bad the day, no matter how miserable, no matter how much you don’t want to write, you must write nonetheless.
I call hogwash on that bold claim.
And why? Because I sincerely believe that we as writers are far too tough on ourselves. When we’re vicious and lacking compassion for our own inner writer, we are stunting our creativity. In actuality, we're hurting ourselves more than helping. We're kicking ourselves when we're down -- and I don't know about you, but when I'm feeling down in the dirt, the last thing I experience is a boost of pure motivation and determination to further my goals in life.
If art can be at the service of anything, it's about letting us see a state of grace for those people who rarely get to be able to be seen that way." - Kehinde Wiley
I recently wrote a post about why we as writers must practice grace with ourselves, which you can find here:
With that sentiment in mind, I’d like to dig in a little more as to why writing is not the be-all-and-end-all to define our daily success as writers:
When we burn-out, we require creative rest. It’s as simple as that.
As I sat there, alternating my hot water bottle between the kink in my neck and the cramping in my lady box, and couldn’t help but feel another pain oon top of it all— writer’s guilt.
Over 60 days of daily publishing, not having missed one day, and here I was, on the verge of not even squeezing out a short little poem to publish.
I recognized the guilt, I discredited it as false, and I actively decided that I would break my writing streak then and there.
Because what was the point of maintaining my writing streak, really? Bragging rights, maybe? What did it really mean for me to not publish something one Sunday afternoon?
Did that mean it was it the end of the world?
Did that make me a failure?
Did I let down my readers?
Of course not.
When we get too attached to the representative limits we place on ourselves, and prioritize that over our creative expression, we lose quality and substance for our craft.
Through grace, there is creative healing.
After four hours of hot water bottles, I could finally move my neck again.
Thanks to pain meds, my uterus had numbed itself. I was finally feeling better.
So, did I then head straight to my laptop to write? Nope.
Instead, my fiancé and I went outside and gardened for the afternoon.
As I was wrist-deep in soil and mulch and weeds, I found rest.
I found peace.
I felt my creative tank refilling once again with substance and quality.
By removing my hands from around my inner writer’s neck and placing them in the soil of my garden, I finally had some breathing room to recharge, pressure-free.
With the spring sunshine beating down on me, I released my worries and strains and anxieties into the atmosphere around me.
And I come back today a more free-spirited writer than when I started the weekend.
"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace." - May Sarton
In the powerful words of Jeff Buckley,
Grace is what matters in anything - especially life, especially growth, tragedy, pain, love, death. That's a quality that I admire very greatly. It keeps you from reaching out for the gun too quickly. It keeps you from destroying things too foolishly. It sort of keeps you alive.
There’s no one rulebook to this writing thing.
Every writer’s journey is different and unique.
It’s important that we each recognize our own individual needs for charging our inner writer and maintaining a healthy balance for life and writing.
Like with our own mental health, every person’s prescription is unique. Don’t let someone tell you what does and doesn’t work for you — only YOU have the answer to what you require.
Taking a day off from writing, when you identify as a writer, does not mean the sky will fall down.
You will not begin to waste away into translucent nothingness.
Rest is as fundamental as breathing.
Take a moment to breath when you need it.
Writing is not a sprint, it is a marathon.