I’m a full time author, meaning I’m a full time believer in doing something in my career every day, which includes writing every day.
But some days…I don’t.
Most of those days involve being at conferences, dealing with the business side of the writing business, interacting with fans, promotion, and so on. Those aren’t “off” days. Those are days when the hours are filled with work that ensures the writing career continues, because, yes, if you don’t do the business side, it’s hard to keep getting your books onto the shelves and into the hands of readers.
However, I still try to get writing in, as much as possible, every day, even if it’s only 100 words (I’m a proud member of Club 100 for which I give a great deal of credit for my becoming focused enough to now have to do all the business side of the writing business).
Recently, though, I’ve heard a voice in my head. Oh, don’t get me wrong — I hear voices in my head all the time. I mean, I’m an author. Of course I hear voices, and lots of them. Constant, whining voices, demanding that their stories be told, and first, and hurry it up, will you?
But this voice is a real voice, the voice of Phyllis Hemann, the friend and fellow author who first gave me permission to write, all these many years gone by. And what I hear, in a lovely, cheerful southern drawl, is this: Writing all the time every day’s great and all that, but sometimes you need to actually think about what you want to write. So, feel free to take some time and just think.
I literally haven’t taken a day off for over 1,860 days (and counting…thank you, Club 100). I’ve done a hell of a lot in that time, including land a great agent and get a variety of books, humor shorts, novellas, novelettes, and short stories published with some wonderful publishers and in some great anthologies and e-zines, gone to a large number and variety of cons, and generally been happily and insanely busy. But what I haven’t done is take a day off. And after 1,860 days straight, a day off sounds mighty good. (And no, no cons are time off. Going to cons and seminars and writer’s conferences is awesome, but it’s time spent working. And I usually write and do other business stuff while there and certainly while traveling to and from. So, again, not time off.)
After all those many days of writing, editing, the business stuff…it starts to feel like (gasp of horror) a job. And I don’t want to be at a job any more. As the wonderful author Patricia Briggs said: When you sit down to write, never forget that it’s play, it’s joy, and it’s fun. It’s not the work. You don’t “have” to write — you “want” to write.
A day off! It sounds so…decadent. And yet, I could use some down time, even if all I do in that down time is run scenes in my head and argue with my characters until I get back to the laptop and start writing. Because I want to write, but part of me knows I have to write, and all of me knows both Phyllis and Patty are right.
A day off. Maybe more than one. What would I do with a day off? Or more? Well, I imagine that, at the start, I’d enjoy the feeling of playing hooky, of committing the sin of ignoring my career and, worse, ignoring my stories and characters and all the ideas in my head. But after a while, I believe I’ll start itching to write. The fun and the time off will seem like work, because they’re keeping me from what I want to do.
So, in honor of my daughter heading to law school (USC, Go Trojans!), she and I will be taking a few days and going to Disneyland. And for those few days, I’m not going to write, and I’m not going to worry about all the business side of things. I’m going to relax, and let the Happiest Place on Earth work its magic. I’m going to have fun. And while I’m having fun, I’m going to think. Most likely about writing, ‘cause that’s how I roll.
And then I’m gonna sit back down at the computer and let the few days of fun carry over into the fun of writing. Because a little sinning now and then must happen to the best of men, and repentance in the form of happily banging out flowing words is a great way to make up for a few days off.