Archives for July 2009

I am not good at relaxing and it stresses me out.


I turned in the manuscript for STAY on Wednesday. It was the second round of revisions. There may be more changes, but this is probably the last round of major changes. Everyone I’ve talked with since has encouraged me to relax, take some time off, and/or chill out.

The problem is that I can’t. Firstly, while working on my manuscript, I left a lot of things undone. There’s a small forest growing in gutters. The weed situation in my garden is completely and totally out of control. Bills must be paid. Laundry done. Dog hair vacuumed. That kind of stuff.

And then there’s the exciting stuff. Starting a new book, or going back to one of the projects I’d been working on before we sold STAY. Author photos. A website. Some cool stuff that’s going to happen with Allie’s Answers next week. A burning desire to start playing guitar again. My new workout routine (hello, biceps!).

Plus, I want to get rid of all the stuff we’re not using so it’s easier to keep the house clean when I do get back to work. And I’m thinking about removing the drop ceiling in the basement because the tiles are old and dirty and buying new tiles seems wasteful. And can I actually redo a bathroom by myself? I don’t know. Should I try?

When I think about spending a week or two “relaxing,” I start getting tense. I start thinking about all the projects that need to be tackled and what will will be waiting for me when I’m done relaxing. But when I think about getting things done, moving forward, heading toward what’s next, I am joyous, excited, and raring to go.

I will, however, take a little time to read a few chapters of The Embers, and enjoy the fancy root beer a dear friend left on my doorstep last night.

“I went to bed with gum in my mouth…”

Do you remember that book?

I didn’t wake up with gum in my hair yesterday, but I wasn’t having the greatest of days. I woke up feeling kind of eh all over, and then a bunch of stupid little things went wrong. Everything was getting to me and I was feeling like I was on the verge of tears even though I couldn’t pinpoint any one single thing that was really worth crying about.

When I was out running errands in the morning, I decided, as an attempt to cheer myself up, I’d buy a six pack of fancy root beer, even though it was way more expensive than what I would usually pay for junk food. It seemed like the perfect, motivating, afternoon treat.

After lunch, I sat down to work and got stuck and frustrated and decided it was time for a break and that nice big icy glass of root beer. A simple little indulgence to pull me through the day. But there are two problems with basing your sanity in little rewards.

1. The little rewards usually don’t work as fully as you’d like
2. Sometimes you forget the root beer on the bottom rack of the effing grocery cart and don’t realize it until you’re at your absolute wits end and then you get mad at yourself for crying over lost root beer, because it’s utterly ridiculous to cry over root beer, even though it isn’t really about the root beer, is it? (Anyone who talked to me yesterday is probably like, “Oh my god! Will she shut eff up about the effing root beer?” and they’d be totally justified in doing so.)

But, after a good phone chat with an amazing person, and applying Corinne’s Post-It technique (we have a very interesting kitchen wall art now) to my problem, I got through my work confusion and climbed back into bed to watch Bridget Jones until it was time for writing group.

On the way to writing group, it rained so hard I could barely see the road, and then I stepped in a huge puddle as soon as I got out of my car. But, I had a wonderful time with wonderful ladies who are so amazingly considerate that they make sure they always bring wheat-free snacks for me (seriously, how sweet is that?), and got to hear some fantastic work.

When I got home, J met me out in the garage. He had a weird look on his face.
“What?” I asked.
“Um. . .” he was kind of smiling.
“Yes?” I asked, giggling nervously, assuming it had something to do with one of the members of our multi-pet household pooping in an inappropriate place.
“Where’s the mop?”

And then I walked in the kitchen and saw a brand new Great Lake right there on the floor, complete with a tiny island made from the 8 paper towels J had used in a weak attempt to clean it up.

We have a dishwasher that hooks up to the sink instead of a built in. J needed to use the sink, so he paused the wash cycle and unhooked it. Then he forgot about it and walked away. But the pause feature pauses for half an hour and then turns back on automatically. From the other room, he suddenly heard water splashing and realized that the washer had started up and was now draining water directly onto the floor.

After the day I had, I fully expected to start crying. I fully expected to get that, “Oh, and now this,” feeling and just loose it completely. But all I could do was laugh. Because it’s funny. Because I couldn’t stop picturing what J’s face must have looked like when he realized what he’d done. Because our kitchen floor was disgusting anyway, and now it’s much cleaner. Because I love spending time with J, even if it’s spent mopping up dirty dishwasher water with old towels.
Because good friends are always going to be a much better fix than root beer. And it’s not like anyone made me eat lima beans.

Non-writing

There’s a part of my writing process that involves not writing. And not only is it not writing, but it’s not doing much of anything productive at all. It’s not doing dishes and not doing laundry and not vacuuming. It’s not paying bills and not mowing the lawn and not going grocery shopping. It is basically sitting on my butt and reading, or watching movies, or playing Scramble on my phone until my thumb starts to hurt.

This, for me, is the hardest part of writing, because even though I know I need it, I have a really hard time justifying it to myself. I need downtime to be productive. I need to clear my head and give things time to percolate. I’ve come to recognize this as a part of my process. But I still feel guilty when J comes home after a long day of work, to do more work, and I’m like, “Sorry there’s a mess in the kitchen, and we have no food, but I had to watch Henry decapitate people for two hours today and there just wasn’t time.” Thankfully, J is incredibly understanding and supportive. When I’m done with this round of rewrites, I’m totally going to start buying food again, so he doesn’t waste away to nothing.

I guess, no matter what we do for work, everyone is entitled to their downtime, right? No one can be productive 24/7, and if we don’t refresh, we can’t keep going. What do you do for downtime? Do you have a guilt-complex about chilling out, or is it just me?