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The Pause Between

I am restless today. It’s been three weeks since I emailed a draft of my new book to my editor and agent.  I’ve been dreaming in plots for a few days now, and I have done all the things I said I would do “when I finished the book.”  Well, not all of them.  Turns out I don’t always want to be in the garden.

I want to write.  That’s pretty much what I always want to do. Write books, columns, essays, journals, ideas, plans—whatever. Writing is my natural state.

But just now, I can’t really get my mind to settle into anything. I can only write this piece because I’m observing my own process. Like Vaughn last week, I’ve started and abandoned several columns, unable to stick with any of them. One has potential and maybe I’ll get back to it, but  I just don’t have the wherewithal to do it justice right now.

This is what I’ve got today:

I’m creatively exhausted. The final push for the most recent book was brutal, mostly because the subject matter was so intense that the girls in the basement arranged for me to only know everything in the final three weeks of the book, which means I lived a bunch of revelations and reversals right along with my characters and wore myself out physically as well as emotionally.

That’s fine. It’s just that now I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I take long walks and listen to podcasts. I play with the dogs. I read. Paint. I’m taking a watercolor class online which has a fair amount of homework, and that allows me to indulge in some kind of creativity.

It’s been three weeks. That seems like a long time. In terms of the outside world, a three week vacation is a very nice break indeed.

Clearly not long enough.

Realistically, however, I’d like to get going again soon.  How can I help the girls in the basement get the renewal they need? I’ve decided to give them one more week of intensive well-filling.

I’m going to read. Non-fiction about things that have nothing to do with my work, and fiction unconnected to anything I’d write. I’ll watch another three or four movies, I suppose, even though I’ve started to feel like a sloth over all the watching I’ve been doing. It’s a fast, direct way to mainline a lot of story.

This would be a good week to browse garden shops before they close for the season, just to get an injection of color and peace. Maybe see what’s showing at the museums here and in Denver. See my friends. Take a lot of photographs of the trees changing and then paint them. Listen to music.

One big thing I’m going to do is nail down the details of the trip to India I am finally going to take [1] after Christmas. There’s a lot to dream about, a lot to arrange, and I am both thrilled and slightly nervous. More on that later, but planning a trip is a great way to fill the well.  Even imagining other places is a healing activity (for me, anyway. Obviously if you don’t like travel, it wouldn’t work for you.).

I can also give myself the joy of moving—some extra tai chi classes, swimming, hiking. Moving the body heals the mind, after all. The puppies will be more than happy to assist me in this pursuit.

It also appears I’m going to sleep a lot. It makes me feel guilty sometimes, but this week, I’m just going with it. If my body wants chocolate, I’m going with a bit of that, too.

What I will not do is feel guilty about any of it. Producing creative work is a very intense process. It’s magical and strange and beautiful—and taxing. To respect the work, I have to respect the pauses in-between as well. If I get to the end of this week and I still need another, I’m going to brace myself–and take it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a movie to watch.

Do you feel guilty taking down time?  What do you do when you’re creatively exhausted? 


Photo by Uriel Soberanes [2] on Unsplash [3]

About Barbara O'Neal [4]

Barbara O'Neal [5] has written a number of highly acclaimed novels, including 2012 RITA winner, How To Bake A Perfect Life [6], which landed her in the RWA Hall of Fame and was a Target Club Pick. She is a highly respected teacher who also publishes material for writers at Patreon.com/barbaraoneal. She is at work on her next novel to be published by Lake Union in July. A complete backlist is available here [7].