Is it time for your writing break(through)?

by Laura Laakso

I saw my chiropractor yesterday and his parting words were that if I didn’t stop writing, which he wasn’t expecting me to do, I’d have to take better care of myself. My first thought was, who has he been talking to? Was it my doctor, or my flatmate (also my best friend) or possibly my mother?

His sole concern may have been my joints and muscles but the sentiment is something that has percolated around my mind for a while now.

A bit of context: It’s been six months since I signed a publishing contract for my debut novel. In that time, I’ve done structural edits and line edits on the manuscript, written the sequel almost from scratch, including letting the manuscript rest and doing major revisions to bring it up to a standard where I dared to send it to my publisher. I’ve done extensive research for the third book in the series, drawn up a detailed plan and started writing the book. And did I mention I work full time, compete in two different disciplines with my dogs and have ME?

image via pixabay

It’s no surprise I’m tired. But I’m also driven. When I finished the first draft of book 2, I was going to spend an entire weekend on the sofa, reading for pleasure. I managed about an hour and a half before I started thinking that maybe I should be doing something useful, ie. research for the next book. Another hour and I set aside my book in favour of reading about the history of Samhain.

My problem? Writing is fun! (At least for the most part.) You may wonder why that could possibly be a problem, but it is. When I say I’m driven, my flatmate would correct me and say I’m obsessive. Sure, I have deadlines to meet, but ultimately there is only one person who is pushing me to write as much as possible, to take part in competitions, to develop myself as a writer and to realise my dream of becoming a published author (and maybe, just maybe being able to write full time). And that person is me.

Still, don’t see the problem? If left unchecked, I will write myself to the ground and still feel like I haven’t accomplished enough.

For the past year, I’ve been learning about self-kindness and compassion. At first, they were foreign concepts. The words may have been English, but they meant nothing to me. But little by little, I’ve learnt that it’s okay to lie on the sofa cuddling one of my dogs, to pause to admire the sunrise and to not take part in every writing competition I like the look of. I’ve started using a timer for writing so I don’t get carried away and exhaust myself. When the timer rings, I walk away from the keyboard and give myself a proper break.

image via pixabay

Another thing I am learning to appreciate is that writing is just the tip of the iceberg of being an author. Reading, watching TV, talking to people about their experiences, forging connections on social media and even staring out of the window (yes, I know it’s a clichΓ©) are all part of it. Rationally, I knew all that. You only need to open Twitter to see a meme reminding people of the very fact. But on a personal level, it has required a conscious effort to look beyond the daily wordcount and see the bigger picture.

Do I have all the answers? No. I don’t even have all the questions. And trying to find a more compassionate way of being a writer involves re-wiring my brain. It takes time and it’s easy to ignore the reminders that I must take care of myself. But. When I have allowed a bit of self-kindness into my life, my mind has been filled with inspiration and plot twists, and the writing has flowed.

That should be all the incentive I need to take a break without feeling guilty. I hope one day it will be.

Laura Laakso is a Finn living in the UK with a flatmate who knows too much and their dogs. When she is not writing or competing with her two dogs, she works as an accountant. Her debut novel, Fallible Justice, will be published by Louise Walters Books in November 2018. Laura has a blog at:Β and you can also find her own twitter.

Pet Spotlight: Halla and Sinta


55 thoughts

  1. This was a truly amazing post and I am so thankful for it! I have wanted for the longest time to be able to write a book, but i am so critical of myself. Plus, I work full time and battle with a chronic illness, so I find it hard to actually do it. I started my blog in July to I guess not only help others that deal with illnesses, but help my writing abilities. I am really looking forward to reading more of your posts as they are incredibly helpful!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Honestly? My self-critical, ambitious side is so strong, I don’t get complacent. There is always something more to achieve, a new project to plan, some way to become a better writer and a better person that I don’t have time for complacency. Even contentment is a work in progress.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Haha to be honest, I feel the same way. I don’t see how anyone can be completely content without falling into complacency, so I always try to pick the brain of anyone who might have it “figured out” in case I can glean any tips. I both have yet to find contentment, and I have never had the luxury of complacency. So, I feel ya.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow. Puts me to shame. I am a full time teacher also blogging about my labrador and writing a few articles freelance and that seems a lot. Finding the time to write my first book feels like a huge task…very inspiring.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m either mad or driven. Some days, both. But I’ve always thought that you make time in your life for the things you truly care about. There’s a lot I don’t do, because I choose to spend my time either writing or with the dogs.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Absolutely agree. It summons up a line from Graham Alcott’s Productivity Ninja, “Clarity is to calm what vagueness is to stress.” You’re bringing real clarity to your writing life, what it demands, and how it must be tamed. A great post.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Wow what a productive 6 months! I don’t know how you could do it given all your responsibilities, Laura πŸ™‚
    You are absolutely right that sometimes we just have to give ourselves a break. A few days ago I had a terrible stomach virus and spent two days curled up in bed. I felt bad about not writing but decided to forgive myself πŸ™‚

    Liked by 4 people

  5. “Do I have all the answers? No. I don’t even have all the questions.” Love this! I suspect learning that balance as a writer is going to be a life long journey for a lot of us. Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Ah, I can so relate to this! Got a 3-book publishing deal last year, had visions of sitting in the garden, typing away, words flowing but … I also have to work full-time and have Crohns. I try and switch off but the mind doesn’t and I end up back on the manuscript! Thankfully, it seems I’m not alone …

    Liked by 4 people

  7. It’s so easy to do to much. But we are a rare breed. I don’t think a writer can actually relax like other people. Our minds are always up to something. Our imagination is like a little kid on the playground. It’s impossible to stop. Every now and than we may try and ask for it to slow down and with luck, sometimes it listens.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Ditto – I could sit in front of the screen all day and night. I’ve tricked myself into considering a daily walk or some other activity as an essential part of the process, getting that blood pumping into the brain. Ditto the yoga. And the public interaction – ugh. Not a favorite for this introvert, but it always always always pays off for the writing, amirite?

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Absolutely. What I’ve tried and liked is doing 20 minutes of timed writing followed by 10 minutes of pilates. I usually do two rounds at a time. It’s amazing how much I can achieve in 40 minutes when I put my mind to it. During the breaks, I continue thinking about the story, but my body gets a well-deserved time away from the computer. Also, the dogs have a pesky habit of forcing me outside to pesky things like fresh air and other humans. >_<

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yasss – i write myself to pieces as well. I just – i can’t stop myself! I feel as if I haven’t accomplished anything unless word counts happen! Congratulations on learning how to control that urge!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’m still getting hung on word counts on regular basis, so most of the road is still ahead of me. But hopefully I’m at least working in the right direction! I hope you, too, will get to a kinder writing place, I thoroughly recommend it!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I totally know that feeling. Last year, I was off on medical leave for a couple of months following a surgery on my liver. As soon as my brain returned to a clearer state of being, I stayed up late (like really late), typing like crazy. Just because I could. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 5 people

      1. oh my goodness yes! I’m on medication that is finally hitting the proper dosage and I feel so much better than I have in so long! I can finally think! I’m writing obsessively, afraid that this is just a phase and it’ll be over soon.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. i’m so sorry! I just trashed your comment about my cat being cute without meaning to and now I can’t undo it! O.O I was trying to like it and I hit the ‘T’ on my keyboard and apparently that’s a shortcut for trashing things?!

        Liked by 3 people

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