Monday, 16 December 2013

Trying to Find the White Space


"Are you going to have a break from writing this Christmas?"
Tracy and I are sharing a coffee and a teacake in our local café.
"I don't know. I haven't really thought about it." I say.
I actually haven't, and if I'm honest, the mere idea of not producing any writing for a couple of weeks sends me into a panic.
"If you were in a different job, you'd have time off, though, wouldn't you?" Tracy says wisely.

It makes me think.

If I'm perfectly honest, my reaction to her suggestion has shocked me - after all, I have set my own weekly goals, no one else has. Maybe I should ask myself for permission to have a proper break.

Once I make the decision to wind down a bit, I feel quite excited at the prospect. I think of all the things I can do:  see my grandsons in their Christmas plays, last minute shopping, zumba classes without wondering if I could use the Columbian instructor as a male lead character, walks with Bonnie without the need to rush home to get a story finished. The fact that I make myself write two stories and an article that week, to feel I deserve my non-writing time, I can live with.

So far so good.Then comes the tricky part - turning off the ideas part of my brain. Of course, to see potential stories in everything you do is a blessing but when you have decided you want 'time out', it is nothing but an irritation. In her article in Writing Magazine on planning for 2014, Margaret James quoted novelists Rachel Louise Dove and Phillipa Ashley as saying that in order not to neglect our family and friends (not just at this time of year) we should all 'Try to let some white space into our lives'. What a lovely peaceful image - white space... if only my active brain will allow me to find some.

In her blog post this week, Sally Jenkins says that she finds it difficult to read a book without looking at it through the eyes of a writer. I am starting to find the same with everything I do.

In reply to her post, I commented that when I was an education officer at a nature reserve it took me two years after leaving my job to be able to go on a walk and enjoy it for what it was (rather than trying to analyse every animal track or identify every wild flower). Happily, the part of my brain that was locked into work mode, whenever I was in the countryside, eventually gave up and now I barely give a flower a second glance except to think, 'That's pretty."

... If only I could do the same now I am a writer.

Any tips on how to enjoy my two weeks of 'white space' will be gratefully received.


29 comments:

  1. Just use a notebook for ideas, Wendy, and take time out. You'll be fresher when you return, and your family will get to know you again...?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree with Frances. Taking complete time out must be difficult and perhaps NOT doing ANYTHING with the ideas that will inevitably burst into your consciousness might just make your mind explode! So a notebook to make a FEW jottings sounds a good idea. You'll just have to be firm with yourself and make sure you put the thing away as soon as you've recorded your idea!

    Or, just drink lots - it may numb your brain and you won't get any ideas for a while anyway...or not ones that will be printable at any rate;)

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Drink lots? Hmm - I like your thinking Samantha.

      Delete
  3. We have people staying with us over Christmas and apparently it's a bit rude to leave them on their own with a bottle of sherry while I bash out a few thousand words, so I will take a few days off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I rather like the idea of being left on my own with a bottle of sherry, Patsy.

      Delete
  4. I prefer to just go with how I'm feeling - if I want to write a story do, if I don't I don't. That pretty much goes for the rest of the year too, though I try to be more disciplined then! I don't feel right if I don't, er, write on a regular basis, therefore I don't take 'time off' as such, I just perhaps wake earlier and do an hour before everyone else gets up during holidays/breaks :o)

    Have a lovely Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe that's it - I should just go with the flow, Karen. It's not really stopping writing that's the problem, though. It's being able to switch the writing brain off when I'm trying to enjoy other things. You have a very lovely Christmas too.

      Delete
  5. ... just to add, I think it's because I don't see writing as a 'job' as such, but rather something I love doing, which probably helps. I couldn't see me offering to stay on at the library where I work over the Xmas season, even if they were open!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't remember you saying you worked in a library when I interviewed you at the WW writing workshop!

      Delete
    2. I wasn't hiding it or anything - honest! It's a very part-time job, but I'm proud to work in a library despite the persistent image of us as fusty, crocheting, 'shush'ing, spinsters :o))

      Delete
  6. I'm looking forward to giving my aching brain a break having got the latest draft of my novel to a point! What better excuse than Christmas! I know it might take a while to get cranked up again but when I do, I'm sure I'll find I've benefitted. Besides, it's good to leave the draft well alone before doing any editing.
    Cheers and Merry Christmas! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And a very Merry Christmas to you too, Wendy. I hope you come back to your novel super refreshed.

      Delete
  7. Oh heck, didn't you make me sound wise! Cheers, Wendy. Personally, I need the white space down time to let new ideas in. I think the suggestions above about notebooks are the way to go. But agree once you are a writer, you can't really switch that part of your brain off ... and perhaps that's something to be grateful for ... to see stories wherever you go can be a blessing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seems I shall have to just give in to it, Tracy, oh wise one!

      Delete
  8. Very interesting post, Wendy. Personally, I watch even more TV over the festive period which is my downtime. But I always have something to write on nearby in case I have flashes of inspiration. I won't work on any major projects for the few days of Christmas itself and the biggest, loveliest white space for me will be taking time off from Internet/social media - that might allow more thinking time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A break from social media is a really good idea (mind you I only look at blogs - not being a Facebook fan or on Twitter). Please have a break from your social media break to visit my blog on 23 for my blog chain thingy, Rosemary!

      Delete
  9. Hi Wendy, thank you for using my white space quote, I'm honoured! As a copywriter, I thought an advertising term should apply to we novelists too. I am struggling to walk the walk as well as talk the talk at the moment because I've been given the chnace of a writers' lifetime this year and I can't and don't want to say no. However,. I have had to turn down other projects to do it and I'm determined to try and take a break from tmorrow until New Year's Day. If Ididnt have deadlines, I'd have no hesitation in doing so. I am not the type of person who craves writers holidays - and I know that many people are the opposite - but when I have a break, I really want a break and I love getting as far away from books, reading and being indoors as possible. It makes me even keener to get back to work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your white space quote, Phillipa! I loved it when I read it and it fitted in so perfectly with my post. I am intrigued by the 'chance of a writer's lifetime' - it sounds exciting. Thanks for popping by and come and visit again.

      Delete
  10. Please forgive all the typos and grammatical errors! Back to the wip!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No worries - I'm sure my posts are littered with them!

      Delete
  11. Do what you want to do and what you feel like doing. If the urge to write comes along, then write. Don't feel guilty whatever you do whether that be chilling out or scribbling away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What sensible advice, Lynne - I think I'm making a big mountain out of a mole hill here.

      Delete
  12. Interesting post! You're right, it is a panicky feeling - i'm going to try to take a few days off but it is very hard to switch the old creative brain off...

    Hope you achieve some white space time, Wendy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was hoping to start this week, Sam, but then I was asked to do two PF re-writes!

      Delete
  13. Hi Wendy, hope you enjoy your time off, but I bet you anything the ideas will come flooding in and you won't be able to resist. Give yourself permission to write if you want to but not if you don't. I would do some lovely relaxing reading if you need a break. That always gives me plenty to think about. Merry Christmas - Linda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your sensible advice, Linda. I have a lot of reading to catch up on.

      Delete
  14. I was supposed to be taking some time off for Christmas. But it just hasn't happened. I can't help myself. Here it is, the 23rd, and I've just finished and subbed a story, and was wondering if I could finish another today.

    Maybe on the 25th . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, it's so hard isn't it , Deborah.

      Delete