In the past, I have always used holiday weekends such as Labor Day weekend to work. But this year, I am going to take a day or two of actual rest, and I suggest to you, dear reader, that you do the same. As Jack Nicholson says in the wonderful film, The Shining, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I assume this holds true for girls as well.
Over the last 15 plus years of coaching, I have worked with many writers and surprisingly few were lazy. Many were laboring under false premises, one of which is that you have to force yourself to write. I have observed that when we writers are avoiding our work, there is often a prosaic reason that is easily resolved: we just don’t know what to write. Like many problems, this issue can be solved with the right process. By simply posing the question mentally, and then giving our busy over-taxed minds some room to breathe, the solution often comes while we are doing something else.
Sometimes working harder or having more discipline is NOT the answer. Often we have no choice, but a holiday weekend allows us a little much needed mental space to relax.
Since Labor Day weekend is coming up, I say “Take advantage!”
See this time as an opportunity to process and receive information from your mind. Imagine that your mind has been collecting lots of information like a shopper on a spree who never gets the time to unpack the bags of goodies and enjoy them. Take this time to “unpack.”
When I wrote my most recent story, The Book of Zev, I was inspired by a religious Jewish man I met on a train. Part of the conversation inspired the book, but the other part of the conversation inspired me to focus on my real life. At one point when I asked him where he had the most trouble being content, he said, “It really bothers me that I have been trained to give, give, give, but never to truly receive, and it seems to me that both parts are equally important.”
Receiving is equally important, and this concept can be reframed and expressed, as “It is equally important to gather information, but also to have time to process it.” I propose that you look at this holiday gift of time as a time to process and receive all of the work you have done so far.
All of us who write know that a real vacation is impossible. Even when we are sleeping we are somehow working on the story, so the only ways to relax your mind long enough to give it a much-needed rest is distraction. But the type of distraction you select is key.
Here are three ways to rest your mind that you may find helpful:
1. Stay away from actual personal drama. Personal stuff is a distraction but exhausts the mind, because we are always creating drama in our stories. For a whole day or even two, just decide not to deal with stuff that is problematic but not urgent. Commit to thinking about other more pleasant things.
2. Find physical activities that relax your mind. Try activities such as walking, biking, swimming, dancing, cooking, yoga or Pilates and spending time with friends or pets. The trick is to discover what pleases you the most. I enjoy dancing and find I get some great thoughts after a fun evening.
3. Watch movies. Personally, watching a classic film such as Casablanca or The Godfather is the very best distraction – I know all of the plot twists and turns, but still can enjoy the ride. I also soak up all of the great craft, but most importantly my mind is at rest because it’s engaged in a story. I also recommend current films for the same reason.
To recap, it’s important to give your mind time to relax and process information so that you can easily find what you want to write about.
Have a great, relaxing weekend!
Here’s to your successful writing!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz
copyright (c) 2014 by Marilyn Horowitz