You know how it is with your nearest and dearest. You love 'em to bits, and even when they drive you mad you'd still walk over burning coals for them - because hey, this is a commitment, dammit, and you're in it for the long haul. But every once in a while, you need a break from each other. A little time apart, so that you can both chill and regroup, learn to miss each other again - and basically just get other stuff done that you can't get done when they're demanding your attention on a regular basis.
Writing a novel is a lot like that too, I've found.
This week I have not written a single word of draft two of The Renegades. I couldn't even write that sentence without twitching. Yes, I too have absorbed the mantra so often preached by Stephen King et al - write every single day, exercise that muscle, use it or lose it... hey, you had me at hello on all that stuff, okay? So now, naturally, I accept that my job is to Feel Bad, like I have Failed and Become Lazy. It could even mean - horror of horrors! I don't actually have what it takes to make it as a writer. Because isn't it supposed to be that Real Writers Never Stop Writing, No Matter What Life Throws At Them?
Well whoever originally sold us that idea must've been someone who had no hand whatsoever in typical family Christmas preparations, for a start. No, I'm sorry - if yours is one of the voices screaming in dissent at that notion right now, allow me to make a random guess here... you are one of the following: a married man, one half of a childless couple or a single person, aren't you? Aren't you? Thank you. Come back when your status changes and see if you can still make your case quite as cast-iron then, matey.
So yeah, this week has, for me, been taken up almost entirely with Christmas shopping, Christmas baking (both for the family and for various school events that rear up at terrifyingly short notice in the last couple of weeks of term) and Christmas present-wrapping. And yeah, that is both my excuse and an excuse simultaneously. Of course I could still have found the time to write as well, if I'd made the effort.
But that's the point. It would have been an effort. I'd have been sitting at my keyboard like a wilting husk, trying to make words come out of my head and onto the page while stressing about all the things I still hadn't done and would need to do tomorrow. And I would have either failed to put down a single word or simply hated every single word I did manage to wring from my frazzled noggin. And that would have made me even more stressed and - most crucially - start to hate working on The Renegades, in the same way as even your most loved of loved ones can really wind you up when you're stressing about a million other things.
So I decided we needed to take a break from each other - just for this week. I'm still writing, of course - this Blog entry is proof of that - but The Renegades and I have not crossed each others' paths since last Sunday, and I don't intend for us to meet up again until the next one. And you know what? I refuse to let myself feel guilty about that. Because I know that, by the time we get back together again, I will be missing it; I'll be desperate to catch up and recreate all the good times again. I know this because I'm kind of feeling it a little bit already. But until Sunday, the focus will remain on visiting distant family members and sorting my Christmas shizzle.
I hear what you're saying, Stephen King and cohorts. If you wanna write 'every single day except Christmas Day and your birthday' that's great - have a ball (whilst I assume - not unreasonably, I feel - that someone else obviously organizes large chunks of your life for you.) But some of us writers really do need the occasional holiday. And if we do, I don't believe it makes us bad writers - although I do believe it stops us becoming bad people.