As writers, we tend to focus so much on the words we sometimes forget it’s the white space on the page that makes them visible. Without that expanse, the words would disappear. It’s the same thing with life — struggling to write, to get published, can become our only focus, but it’s the experience of living — the stuff that we too often fail to make time for in our quest for the perfect novel — that makes our writing worth reading.
I’m not saying that you have to keep a strict schedule, or should only devote so many hours a week to your craft. But a balance, in which you fully engage in other activities without obsessing about writing, editors, agents, query letters, and the publishing world in general, will deepen your life, which in turn can deepen your writing.
So how do we create that ‘white space’ — that contrast to the writing life? I have a few suggestions.
Step away from electronics. No, really — I’m saying again what you’ve heard a hundred times before, but is still true. At our house, we define electronics as anything that has a screen, so no phone, computer, tablet, or television. (Read WU mama Therese Walsh’s posts on the perils of multitasking if you need to be convinced why.)
This is hard for me. I have two children who I am certain will fall into dire peril the second they cannot reach me. Plus, as someone who works from home, the internet functions as my ‘virtual cooler’ where I can take a break and see what my peeps are up to. But when I found myself checking Facebook while on vacation in an area I’d purposely picked because it has no cell reception, I knew I had a problem.
Solutions I’ve found include leaving the phone in a glove compartment or at home when my family is all together, handing it over to my husband to hold so I”m not tempted to check, or being guilted into putting it down by my teenager. (She’s available for hire. Cheap.) I’m also trying to close my laptop when I’m done working at the end of the day as a signal that internet time is now over, too. [Read more…]