Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday Soirée - Step back with a one day sabbatical

When I read that my friend Brenda Friedrich was taking some time off from blogging at Enroute 365, I understood immediately. She didn’t have to explain her reasons.

You see, several times this year I felt the urge to do the same. It was not because I was so overwhelmed with assignments or other writing commitments. Rather it was simply a case of feeling overwhelmed with my own expectations for my writing career. Sometimes I feel pressured to keep producing the kind of writing that readers and editors have come to expect. Every so often, I feel as if it is all too much and while the love and passion for writing itself remains strong, I struggle to maintain the discipline for the work involved.

I admit that I am too hard on myself sometimes. Sometimes the scope of my writing dreams that are yet to be realized scares me and when I am scared I freeze. And of course, when I freeze my enthusiasm wanes, my writing suffers and becomes more of a chore than a joy. Truth be told, I want to leave it all behind and head to a beach house for at least six months.

To make things worse that hated voice in my head jumps on the opportunity to bash me mercilessly.

“See, see, you’re no writer. You’re so easily overwhelmed.”

“You might as well quit while you’re ahead before everybody sees you crumbling under your fear of failure, fear of success and grand expectations.”

"Go; no one will miss you."

And on it goes.

Yet, I fight the pull to step back from the commitments that are on my plate. I’m kind of obsessive that way, if you can call it that. I hate the idea of giving up just because I am exhausted or overwhelmed.

Whenever I get to that point, I take a one day sabbatical. Yes that’s right – one day.

Here’s how it works:

I do not start my computer as soon as I awake in the morning. I give myself and all my attention to tasks and activities I enjoy at home. You might think that I’d run off to the mall, since it is one of my favourite things to do. But staying home, by myself and soaking in the silence and solitude is my ultimate pleasure.

It takes me an hour or two to dispel the guilty feelings, because after all, aren’t writers supposed to write every day?

After I have made sure that my home is clean, I take a ritualistic shower – letting the water rain on me for a long time until I begin to shiver. I dress in the most comfortable clothes and lounge on the couch to read with a cup of coffee.

I know that I have given myself over to this time when my eyelids begin to droop. So I put down the book I’m reading, pull up the nearby throw and give in to the call to sleep.

When I awake an hour or so later, I still resist turning on the computer or doing any writing whatsoever. Instead I prepare a meal, read some more, re-organize a shelf or a drawer, sew or bake, and watch television until it is time for bed.

Even as I drift off to sleep I think that maybe I should at least check my email. But still I resist because if God spares my life to see another day, there’ll be plenty of time for that. If He doesn’t, well, what would be the point?

The next day I awake refreshed, relaxed, de-stressed and rearing to get back to my commitments. More important, I can’t wait to begin writing again.

I believe that the time will come when I will have to take a longer sabbatical and much-deserved hiatus for the benefits my one –day practice doesn’t allow. In a sense I look forward to that. When that time comes, I doubt I’d resist at all. I’ll know deep down that it is best thing for me and my writing career and I’d be ready and willing and maybe even a bit excited to step away.

Do you ever feel that way? Have you ever longed to step away from the commitments on your writing plate?

You might say that you have not been writing long enough for that. That may be true, but even a one day sabbatical can work wonders for a beginning writer. Amidst all the excitement of those early days, confusion, overwhelm, doubt, fears and all manner of negativity can put a strain on your passion. So early on, allow yourself to step back even for one day. Don’t write. Do something else or do nothing at all.

Then, return next day to writing, the love and passion of your life.


Joanne said...

I can take so much of what you say and apply it to my life. As wonderful as it feels to write, those days off are just as wonderful, allowing us to immerse ourselves in the daily business of living. To absorb. I guess it's still part of writing, a way to recharge that battery. And it works, in a comforting way.

Magnolia said...

Oh yes. Of course I do. That is the main reason that I've backed off from my blog.

I am reading a wonderful book by Ralph Keyes entitled "The Courage to Write"

He has some wonderful quotes in there by E.B. White, the children's author (Charlotte's Web) who suffered from horrible anxiety and insecurities over his writing.

He said.."I'm impressed if anyone can write one word about anything"

I loved that quote and found much comfort in knowing that even the greatest writers among us suffer from the same insecurities, self-doubt and procrastination.

Sometimes I think the same sensitivity that makes one a good writer can turn inward and just make you miserable.

Cheryl Wright said...

Joanne <->
Indeed it is a time to do just that, “absorb”. We fill ourselves up with inspiration, relaxation, mental, physical, emotional and spiritual fuel, life stories and life lessons.

Mags <->
I ordered Ralph Keyes book. I read a review some years ago and immediately put it on my wish list. Now it is finally on its way and I can hardly wait.

I have never thought about it that way. But you are right; “the same sensitivity that makes one a good writer can turn inward and just make you miserable.” And such is the writing life.

The beauty of though, is that we are never alone in our experiences as writers and we can always a listening ear, an understanding heart and am inspiring word from fellow writers.

Magnolia said...

Hoping things are going well for you today Cheryl.

Have you received your Ralph Keyes book yet? It's an excellent read.

My addiction has always been books and I've been collecting quite a few on writing.

If you are ever looking for some good ones, check my shelfari shelf occasionally. I put the ones I'm reading on there and try to keep it updated.

I'm beginning to try my hand at short story fiction.

I'm thinking I might actually love it. I was amazed at how easily it flowed.

I'll be working on this current piece for a while, but how encouraged I was at how easy it least to get started with it.

Hoping you have a great day. Snowy, cold temps here in the "Faux Midwest" of the US

Cheryl Wright said...

I expect the book will arrive next week. It will be on my Christmas reading list for sure. But then again knowing how I devour these kinds of books. I'll dive in as soon as it arrives and finish it in one sitting. But I can always read it again. Right Mags?

Sometimes I think I'll like to write fiction. I started a story about four years ago and haven;t ventured any further. I wish you completion and publication and best-seller success with yours. But more importantly, I hope you enjoy writing your story(stories).
Maybe, jut maybe, your excitement might inspire me to get back to mine.

While we don't have snow in this part of the world, the cold winds from the north blow down here keeping the place chilly and cozy. I love the weather at this time of the year.

Magnolia said...

Oh, I'm so excited, I just had to tell you.

I was doing some internet searching this morning on Ralph Keyes.

I learned that he lives and works just a mere 35 miles from my home!!

I was floored. He is on the faculty of the Antioch Writers Workshop and they sponsor all kinds of speakers, workshops and such for writers of every level.

Can you believe that???

I've been actively praying for God to open doors for me to improve my writing.

I'm beyond excited that someone I'm so interested in is right in my own backyard.

Hoping you have a wonderful day.

Mine just got a whole lot better.

Cheryl Wright said...

Well look at you all smiley smiley and jumping around with excitement.

Imagine that! Ralph Keyes "in your own back yard" - small world.

I'm thrilled to hear that you have received an answer to your prayer. Go thou and take advantage of this blessing.

Keep me posted on your new adventures.

Jeanne Dininni said...


What wonderful advice! Every so often we need to rest, rejuvenate, and recharge, and your excellent post gives even the busiest writer permission to do that without guilt.

After all, how much harm can a one-day sabbatical do to our writing careers? Likely not much. Even more likely, this much-needed break will improve our careers by improving our attitudes, adding a new spark of inspiration to our work, and providing new motivation to jump back in and follow our dreams with renewed enthusiasm and determination.

Thanks for letting both aspiring and practicing writers know that it's OK to take a break and that, in fact, it can often be the best thing for us--a real boon to our creativity!


Cheryl Wright said...

Hi Jeanne,

Your lovely-written comment bolsters my post. I really appreciate your jumping right in and sharing your views on this topic.

Have a great weekend my friend.

Jeanne Dininni said...

What a sweet thing to say, Cheryl! Thanks! But, your thought-provoking post gave me a great deal to work with in crafting my response!

Take care and have a great weekend yourself!


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