Taking a time out
My writing practice has always been to write for five minutes every day. Sometimes that means just five minutes and no more; sometimes it turns into five hours. But it’s important to get into that habit of getting words on the page. For me, it has to be as much a part of life as eating breakfast – still the most important meal of the day! (If not the most exciting.)
But sometimes, I’ve come to realize, it pays to take a break. I got the edits for my draft novel from my editor this week, and I needed a couple of days to process them. It was impossible to work on the second novel, or any other project: my head was full of the editor’s comments. I was paralyzed. I started overthinking, overanalyzing, then catastrophizing. I really needed some time off.
So I went for a walk. In Downtown L.A. Where I’m told nobody used to walk, but has become extremely pedestrian-friendly, with lots to see and do and eat and drink. And buy, of course.
These are some of the pictures I took on my stroll. Totally irrelevant to my work. Maybe even superfluous. But it was helpful to focus on a different kind of art. Like a palate cleanser. I started at Union Station, walked through the Arts District and the Bank District, spent a bit of time in the Last Bookstore and avoided stopping for a beer at the Buzz Bottle Shop. It was a beautiful day. But hot. The streets were packed with shoppers and tourists and hipsters and artist-types and downtown-dwellers. Everyone smiled and was very polite. A lady in a pink velour tracksuit hauling a wheeled suitcase complimented me on my hat.
By the time I reached Phil Coffee, I was pretty much anxiety free, enough to read through my editor’s letter five or six times, and translate it into a to-do list of seven or eight bite-size tasks. Fairly big bites, in some cases, but not so big that I’m freaked out by the prospect of getting these edits done by the end of May.
So I didn’t write. And yet I did, in a way.
All of which goes to say that, sometimes, writing means … not writing a word.