Knowing When It's Time To Take A Break

As writers, we work hard to keep all the balls in the air. Research, writing drafts, revising manuscripts, producing proposals for future projects, blogging and maintaining multiple social media platforms, as well as our own websites. Those of us that don’t have the luxury of writing full time have a 40-hour workweek to manage as well. Add to that the fact that many of us have spouses and families, and life for a writer can be... well... crazy at the best of times.

Last week I hit a wall. My trip to Massachusetts had been planned for months when my agent requested some extra work be done on a particular project a week before we left. Knowing that I was going to lose a week to my working vacation added extra stress, but I got right to work as requested. But the load really hit once I got back from vacation. The daily grind of working all day in the lab and then putting in another six hours or so on the project when I got home as well as 18-hour days on week-ends took its toll after about a week and a half. I really knew I was pushing it when I started getting dizzy spells at work (which is never good from a safety standpoint, especially when you work with HIV). But when a project has to be completed, you power through until it’s done. And you go through a lot of coffee in the process.

Last Thursday night, I sent that project to Nicole. On Friday, I was an absolute mess. Even my lab mates were teasing me good-naturedly that I was there in body but not in mind, and that I was being uncharacteristically klutzy. I think my brain and body had jointly decided that now that the pressure was off, they were taking a vacation whether I wanted it or not. So, I treated myself to two whole days of doing almost nothing ― relaxing in front of the TV with my husband, taking my girls swimming, hanging out for an afternoon with my mother (who’d almost forgotten what I looked like by that time) and generally giving my brain permission to recharge. After that brief break, I felt like myself again and now I’m back on track prepping for my editor pitches at Killer Nashville this week.

There definitely comes a time when we can’t keep pushing ourselves because what we produce won’t be worth the effort. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to recharge and then come back to the game rested and ready to do the job right.

How do you manage to keep all the balls in the air when the combined pressures of life and your job(s) threaten to take everything out of you?

Photo credit: hpaich