If you read Deb Kerry’s post yesterday, then you’ll understand why I’m having trouble conveying my thoughts with even a shred of her eloquence. She nailed it. As I read, I kept nodding and thinking, “Yes, yes, yes.”
Last week’s news cycle was one of the worst I can remember in quite some time. At times, my Facebook and Twitter feeds threatened to suffocate me — one bad story after the next, everyone emoting into cyberspace, some seeking a connection and others simply seeking catharsis. I felt smothered. It was too much.
And it made me realize that sometimes it’s okay to check out. It’s okay not to tweet or post or email or watch CNN on an endless loop. Sometimes it’s okay to turn to your husband and baby and say, “I love you, and you’re what matters to me right now,” and be thankful for the small blessings in life.
Sometimes writing helps. Getting lost in a story or a cast of characters can put the real world on mute for a while, and all that matters is plot and dialogue and imaginary conflict. I can shut out the noise and lose myself in my imaginary world.
But sometimes, for me at least, I need to check out of the writing process, too. Rather than beat myself up because the words aren’t coming and the plot isn’t working and oh my gosh, on top of that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, I close my laptop, take a deep breath, and step away from my desk.
Given all the sadness and tragedy in the world, I could obviously use the “hell in a hand basket” excuse every day to avoid writing. If I did that, I would never finish a book, which is kind of a problem if I want my books published. And since I do want my books published, I don’t encourage checking out of the writing process on a regular basis.
But so often as writers we beat ourselves up if we have a bad writing day or if life gets in the way and thwarts our best-laid plans to write two more chapters. We shouldn’t. Life is full of twists and turns — some of them welcome, some of them not — and some days we need to step away from our stories and simply surround ourselves with the people we love most. Some days we have to say, “I’ll write more tomorrow. Today I’m going to take care of myself.” And you know what? That’s okay.