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Permission to Pause

If you’ve read my blog (or any agent’s blog) for a while, you know that ours is not a nine to five job.  Not by a long shot.  My weekends bear a striking resemblance to my work weeks.  Lots and lots of reading and critiquing —queries, client manuscripts, partials, proposals….  If I don’t read at least six to eight hours in a weekend, my work piles up to ridiculous heights.  Don’t forget that I read in the evenings and sometimes even during the business day if I don’t have contracts to look over, submissions to get out, checks to chase, e-mails and phone calls to answer, rights reversions or reconciliations to print to request….  But every once in a while, I have to give myself permission to take a break, otherwise I lose all perspective.  Reading and critiquing works back to back to back can lead to burn-out.  I’m not truly serving my authors, who come first, or queriers, who, by necessity, come second, if I’m not giving it my all.

So every once in a while, like on the fourth of July, I have to give myself permission to pause.  (Not the fifth, in case you’re concerned that I’ve turned to workaholics anonymous.  Then I stayed home to read for hours in the morning to make up for my slacking the day before while my husband and son went off to Busch Gardens with friends to ride coasters and eat funnel cake.) 

I’m talking about it here because authors need to do the same.  Every once in a while, find what gives you peace.  Change your venue, if need be, and quiet your mind.  You’ll be surprised what it’ll come up with when you give it a chance to catch up with you.  Because, let’s face it, the brain never shuts down.  We may be doing other things—playing with the puppy, doing dishes, watching fireworks—but our stories are so all-consuming that they’re always in the back of our minds.  We’re constantly, subconsciously working on the puzzle.  I had a difficult end to the last week, where I got a “this could be huge” comment on my concept and, essentially, a “change everything” on my execution of a new mid-grade series I’m working on.  It threw me into torment, because I’d had the same sense of Eureka! on the premise, but have a terrible self-defeating fear that I won’t be able to pull it off.  Very, very awful to feel that you just might not be good enough to go for the gold.  So I balked against the notes and shut down.  Didn’t work on the novel for days.  Little did I know, it just doesn’t work that way.  By Sunday, my mind had, unbeknownst to me, worked out several ways to change or enhance what I’d already done.  The beginnings of my finished novels hardly ever resemble the first chapters of my early drafts.  I always have to remember that.  Still, it’s torture to throw out so much work and begin again, not even knowing if all the blood, sweat and tears will be worth it in the end.

Anyway, whatever you do—writing, agenting, painting—you sometimes need to give yourself a break.  Don’t think of it as slacking (easier said than done, I know), but as refreshing.  In the end, it’ll be more productive than slogging along down the wrong path or slowing and slowing because things have lost their luster to the point where you come to a complete stop.

This has been a public service announcement brought to you by the word epiphany.  Learn it, live it, love it.  Ephiphany

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 6th, 2009 12:35 pm (UTC)
Permission to Pause
Hi :)
Thank you for sharing this great blog post.
I find a nice long walk lets my mind recharge & refreshes me.
I just need to do it more :)
Love from Canada
Jul. 6th, 2009 12:40 pm (UTC)
Am I allowed to gouge my eyes out on my break? Cuz then I don't have to finish my edits!

Oh wait... knowing my editor, she'd just make me finish them eyeless.. sigh...
Jul. 6th, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC)
This is so, so true. I find it so hard to just stop working (be it for writing or art) for a day because I always feel like I'll slack off permanently that way. What REALLY happens is that my brain short-circuits, and I have to take a break anyway. We aren't Energizer Bunnies; if we want to keep going and going and going, then we need to relax and relax and relax.
Jul. 6th, 2009 01:49 pm (UTC)
I'm a much smaller-scale writer and all, but, boy, do I relate with you regarding that whole self-defeating-fear-that-I-can't-pull-it-off thing. It's so aggravating! Especially since odds are pretty good I *can* pull it off, it's still this fluttery, weird thing.

Cheers that you reached a new level with your project, though, and I hope the break really pulls it together for you :)
Jul. 6th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)
Jul. 6th, 2009 02:01 pm (UTC)
You are so right! Thanks for reminding us. I always come back from a break refreshed and full of ideas (and hope). And I don't see why that wouldn't be true from the agent angle as well.
Jul. 6th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)
Great post! You're so right.

This year not only am I going to give myself permission to pause, I'm actually taking a week holiday. For the first time in 4 years I don't have any deadline during holiday time. WOOT!
Jul. 6th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
The mind is a very strange thing. When I used to dance, no matter how hard I worked on a particular movement I couldn't get it down. Then after a good night's sleep, for some reason I was able to perform the motions with ease. Same tends to work with my personal writing. I've had to cut entire chapters because it just didn't work (usually the 1st chapter) but when the idea strikes you, your work is the better for it.

Your day sounds hectic! Reminds me when I was in college taking several reading courses. It was non-stop reading and by the end of the 1st month my brain began to shut down. Of course, the lack of sleep contributed to that one. Hope all goes well with the readings.
Jul. 7th, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
Thank you. I'd hit that exhausted point and needed a break. It's nice to know I'm not alone!
Jul. 7th, 2009 12:52 pm (UTC)
I think, in some ways, this is where my heavy academic schedule comes in handy.

There are points in time where I just have To Do Stuff Unrelated to Writing. Works out pretty well for me.
Jul. 8th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
And a well deserved break!!! I can only begin to fathom the workload you have to sort through... I'm glad to hear you took a day off. I did too. I think it was the first weekend in a long time that I wasnt glued to my laptop. Took the wife and kids to the beach, shot fireworks out over the ocean and collected a bunch of sand dollars. Very refreshing.

Jul. 10th, 2009 03:27 pm (UTC)
Sometimes life gives you pause
I was merrily at the start of my third year of writing six books a year for Ellora's Cave when life reached out to grab me by the shirt collar. In February I was sent the edits for my 37th book with them when my husband became ill. From that time forward, I've not written anything. He died in April and I suspect it will be several months more before I have the desire to write again. He begged me not to stop...he knew I would...because he was my number one fan. He read everything I wrote and was the first editor for every one of my 60+ books. Now that he's gone, I've lost my focused, my voice has stilled, my muse is sleeping.

I'll get back to it one day. I can't peacefully co-exist with the stuff rattling around inside my head. For now, I'm taking it one day and a time but....

I'm taking notes. :)
Jul. 10th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Sometimes life gives you pause
Wow. Power and peace to you. So difficult to go on, but I hope you find that place again.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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