Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Fundamentals: Rest and Recreation for Writers

Happy Last Days Of Summer 2012!  Here in the United States we celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday in September.  It's traditionally a time for barbecues, beach lounging, and basking in the last rays of sunshine before autumn revs up the pace of everyone's life.

Yet how many of us are planning to spend this weekend doing more work of a different kind?   Yard work, school work, home repairs, or mall shopping (which I consider to be hard work, too)?   

Rest is a good thing -- if we allow ourselves to partake of it. 

As writers, we need to take breaks from our word-wrangling routine, too.  Our brains tend to fry if we write too long at an uninterrupted pace.

This past week one of my freelance writing projects heated up, and I spent many long hours at the computer, deep in the throes of rephrasing, rejecting, condensing, positioning and polishing strings of words.  In situations like this, I get so wrapped up in crafting the perfect messaging that a whole day can pass by in the blink of an eye.  You know how that is, my fellow wordsmither. It's work we love, but it's work. Making verbal containers for ideas can be every bit as fatiguing as a day spent digging in the garden or painting the living room. 

Fortunately, I have a foolproof alarm that signals when I have reached my Maximum Writing Output for the day. It's a little spark of realization I call, "Hey-I-Have-Been-Stalled On-This-Same-Paragraph-For-Close To-An-Hour-Now."  Works every time!

Do you get that alarm, too?  Some writers call it Hitting The Wall, or Losing Your Muse, or Brain Drain, or simply I Need Pizza. But whatever you call it, you find that you suddenly, REALLY need to quit for a while so you can refill the old inspiration tank.

This past week, I obeyed that inner alarm and stopped writing -- but what I did next was a mistake.   

I "relaxed" by watching the Republican National Convention.  

Talk about a flood of words!  All those podium speakers, commentators, and convention-covering reporters!  All their assertions, interchanges, and analyses!  All the scripts, speeches and sound bites!   My inner messaging maven was mesmerized.  It was like I was sitting on the couch with a ten-pound box of Russell Stover chocolates on my lap, delving into one cream filling after another.  

There was Ann Romney, whose speech I experienced as a perfect sugar-dusted bonbon with a surprisingly strong burst of raspberry cordial inside.  Then my hometown hero Rudy Giuliani punched out his talking points with double-espresso intensity as if they were stamped-out pieces of dark chocolate.  I crunched through Chris Christie's comments like so much toasted-coconut-coated fluffy nougat.  

The speeches kept coming.  Addicted, I couldn't stop. There was Condoleeza, with her stately Dove bar delivery as smooth as silk.  Paul Ryan's words mixed a young peanut brittle edginess with a butterscotch warmth, and Marco Rubio's speech exuded the fresh, sharp flavor of Florida key limes. Then Clint Eastwood frosted his rambling remarks with the breezy chill of chocolate mint -- or was it whiskey?

By the time Mitt himself took the stage, I had gone into a total communications coma.  I couldn't take another bite.  I pushed away the political candy box and stood up, dizzy from the sugar rush.  


Come on, my fellow communicators, surely you understand how all this volume of diverse vocal styling was a mental overdose for my already-verbiage-saturated brain!  Watching the convention may have given me a break from writing, but it sure as heck wasn't a break from words.  

It's a funny fact: when you're in the communications business, the opportunities you have to take an actual total break from communication are extremely rare.  So when you do have a chance to get some down time, you probably need to find ways to distance yourself from words.  Sit in the sun.  Snooze on the sand.  Or, at least, paint that living room and dig in that garden -- in silence.

I'm taking one of those opportunities now.  So I'll be taking a blog-writing break for a week or so. I know I need it.  Hopefully it will help me get my current word overdose out of my system.  Soon I'll be ready to poise my fingers over the keys again and let the current of creative communication flow through them once more.  

For now, give me the deck chair overlooking the water, the salt breeze, and the spacious sky.  

If we don't take breaks, we wind up broken.  

Will you join me on the porch? 

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