Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Deadline Burnout Burbles

Last night I sent off the revisions for The Heir of Khored , the final book of The Seven-Petaled Shield trilogy. Am feeling very pleased with it. That wonderful feeling of reading your own work and thinking, "Wow, I really nailed that scene!" So, elation but also exhaustion. As you can tell from my (well, partly deliberate) sentence fragments.

What do you do when you've been working on a project for what seems like forever (7 years) and it's finally done. Out of your hands. Fini. (I still have to do page proofs, but the essential work is done.) Some writers go on vacation. Kick back, get a massage or twelve, watch all the seasons of Eureka, go out to dinner, etc. Others sit around and mope, wondering what to do with themselves. One very fine writer of my acquaintance gets depressed until she starts the next project.

Me, I have a list of things I've put on hold during the crash and burn deadline period. I've written out a few things, pinned the paper to my bulletin board. I stare at it, my mind bereft of ideas as to how to accomplish the tasks. I think that state of blankness is about par for the course. The thing is, when we pour ourselves into a project, particularly one with a a deadline so it's not only all-encompassing creatively but in terms of how many hours it eats up every day, and then it's over, it's as if we've been pushing a very large, very very heavy object and it suddenly slides out from under us. Falls off a cliff. Disappears into another dimension (aha! PublisherLand!) I feel like a cartoon character staring into the void where my book used to be.

As much as I want to dive into the creative projects I set aside because of the deadline, I also need to take care of the void inside of me.
I've been putting so much concentration, critical thought, creative problem-solving, you name it, into this last push that I need to give myself time to "fill the well" again. Taking care of my all-too-stiff-from-long-sitting body. Doing the laundry. Answering emails. Calling my kids and my sadly-neglected-but-understanding friends. Maybe some mind-candy reading. Long sessions at the piano, getting re-acquainted with Mssrs. Chopin, Bach, and Mozart. Hiking if the weather permits. Taking my sweet husband up on his offer to go Regency Dancing for Valentine's Day.

In other words, play. Play rather than stupefaction, but play that replenishes and refreshes. It's not only pleasurable, it's necessary. If I don't take care of myself, if I continue to overwork, then I run the risk of creative exhaustion. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to not let that happen, especially since I'm in this writing business for the long haul. That means knowing the pace at which I work best.We're not all the same in this. I'm sure there are other writers who work full-out all the time. I'm not one of them. I love having that turbo-charged gear for when I need it, but I can't live there all the time. And that's okay. It's more than okay. Pacing myself is one of the ways I protect the joy I get from writing.

And, as has been said or rather sung before, that's what it's all about.

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