This isn't exactly a post about the kind of writer's block that most people think of, where you stare at your notebook or laptop and nothing comes to you; however, I'm sure the experience of guilt and frustration is the same.
Up until this past Thursday, I hadn't written one word in my current work-in-progress since December 1st. It had nothing to do with the struggle to find the words, but everything to do with the struggle to find the time—and energy.
This holiday season was particularly stressful and rushed for me. I usually have my decorations up by black Friday, but it was well into December by the time I put up my tree—and even then, I never got around to putting on the star. I'm not a last minute shopper, but this year I checked that box too. It has been a whirlwind, that's for sure.
In all of the chaos that came with this Christmas season, I tacked on guilt for my lack of progress with my novel. Before I could forgive myself, I had to determine the cause and acknowledge it; only then could I begin to follow the steps (listed below) towards forgiveness.
What caused the craze? Work got super intense with all of the end-of-year deadline fulfillments, and my husband got ill yet his work schedule got more hectic. Between worrying about his health, struggling with concerns over my own weight, and an intensified workload, my writing took a back seat and I hated it!
So, what did I do? I let go of the angst over my non-writing by accepting that this would always have been a difficult time to write as dutifully as I had all year long. I also decided that what I needed was to re-think my priorities just for December.
These are the five things I did:
1. Make December about my family and the holidays. Instead of being upset with myself for my failure to squeeze extra time out of my day for writing, I decided that I would allow myself the break. Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I would have felt worse if after all the craze, and guilt brought on due to the lack of time, I would have missed valuable Christmas fun with my loved ones.
2. Being a writer isn't just about scribing stories or blogging. All experts say that reading is as important to the writing process as getting the words, themselves, down. How could I make time for reading but not writing you ask? It takes a different kind of energy to write as it does to read. This December didn't just eat up my time, it hit me with a level of mental exhaustion that I wasn't expecting. I told myself that if I read as many books as possible, I am still putting in work as a writer. In the last two weeks of December I read four books, and I'm still counting.
3. I found new inspiration. It may actually have been a good thing that I took the December break that I did; the break created a void to be filled by new creative sparks. If you do not come out of your writer's cave, you can miss out on noticing the world around you which in turn would mean that you will fail to see signs that the universe is holding up for you. I closed the door to my cave behind me, and opened my eyes and ears. So many signs—I am a believer in signs—told me that my writing dream is not a far-fetched hope, but an actual possibility. I just needed to be rejuvenated (The root word is juven, latin for young. In Spanish we have a word called juventud, which means youth; to rejuvenate is to make something younger or fresher, and that's what I needed). I'd also like to note that stepping out of the cave to do some people watching is part of the writing process!
4. Retail therapy. Christmas is the one time during the year when it is accepted and expected that one will be splurging at the mall a few times—or several times. To forgive oneself, I think it's important to go a bit beyond acceptance by finding a way to switch gears. Put yourself in a happy place, which for me is often a place with cashiers.
5. Speaking of switching gears, remember when I mentioned that some of my worries centered on the health of my husband and myself? It was time for me to rededicate myself to a healthier lifestyle, but not just by dieting. Food is so important, it is central to all of our lives and cultures. One's eating habits can affect energy, health, and the mind. I chose one of the fattiest times of the year to kick start a new healthy eating regime and learn how to make healthier meals at home. We had become reliant on fast food, or ordering in. Time was always the excuse. Enough was enough! This week alone I cooked almost everyday—granted I was on vacation—but, I wholly intend to make the majority of our weekly dinners both sit-down and homemade. I looked up several recipes and prep ideas to keep me going. In forgiving myself, I chose to reward myself, and I did so by making cooking fun and tasty!
I am now at peace with this December, and I know that I will be looking back on this time not with disappointment but with endearment. I learned a lot about me and what I truly want out of life this holiday season. I hope yours will turn out as wonderful too!