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.
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