My 2020 was full.
By the end of this amazingly productive, amazingly stressful year, I am completely knackered.
And I think it may be time for a little break.
If you too have worn yourself out with your writing goals, remember sometimes the best something you can do for yourself is nothing.
This is what I do during my seasons of resting:
I don’t feel guilty. I needed a break. I needed to retreat, go back and rethink what my next writing and publishing steps are. I’m still not completely sure of them, but I’m not going to stress about the unknown in my life.
I don’t feel rushed. It’s almost always better to move thoughtfully and purposefully than harried and hurried. This can apply to most things in life.
I don’t have high expectations. This was the toughest thing I had to let go of. I set aside a month to avoid writing and rest. But in the back of my head, I was, at times, convinced that this month was the key to the really big idea that will launch me into fame. Those expectations will make me crazy and neurotic. I don’t think it’s worth it to worry about the future.
I practice good self-care. During my time off, I tried to make sure I was doing everything I needed to do. The obvious: sleep, water, exercise, good food was just a beginning. I also took a few hot baths, got massages, read a lot of books and stopped anxiety at the door of my mind.
I have a plan. Kind of. I started by asking myself what was the most important thing to me. I was surprised by my answers. It was from this clarification of my values that I was able to envision 2016 a little clearer.
I look for answers. I spent this downtime reading books (and discovered how much I like travel nonfiction!) I asked trusted friends for advice. I read old notes. I went back and remembered the highlights of the year. What do I want to repeat?
I curb negativity. This is probably the hardest and most important thing on this list. My negative thoughts will have more of an impact on me than anything. My wails of despair and disappointment are not as powerful if I distract them with happy memories and positive thoughts.
I pay attention to the stories around me. I read and studied subjects I knew nothing about. This is what I think it means to be filled up with art before you can overflow.
I wander both figuratively and literally. I walked on the trail behind my house. I let my thoughts go to happy, unpredictable places. I invented dialogue for ghosts of characters that will never materialize. I couldn’t plant a stake in an idea, but I didn’t let it bother me.
I didn’t do all of these perfectly, by no means. And I didn’t have this list to go on — I just let things happen. And truthfully, I’m in the middle still of this rest period and I’m still figuring it out as I go.
But I think it’s a reasonable expectation for an artist to have downtimes.
I think there is nothing abnormal about a dry season or a hiatus or a holiday. Our minds and schedules need breathers and even though it had been years really since I had been able to take one, I’m glad I did.
I still don’t know what my projects for the future will look like, but I’m determined to approach my words as if they are my toys, not my taskmasters.
I’m going to be nice to myself and enjoy this time between deadlines. I’m not going to worry about sales or rankings, because those figures have rarely brought me joy.
2021 could be my best year yet.
What about you? How have you rested in between projects? What did you do to take care of yourself?