All Work and No Play – What Do You Do to Relax?
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy – What Do You Do to Relax?
I felt myself turning into to Jack Nicholson from The Shining this week. As a dark cloud of insanity engulfed me, I had visions of Jack sitting behind his typewriter in that huge great room typing “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again. I knew then it was time to pull the plug.
Staring at my screen in my own Overlook Hotel, getting angrier and angrier, I knew I had to stop.
Working Hard This Year
I’ve been working hard this year, probably harder than I have any year, and just like Jack Torrance who thought it would be great to go to the Overlook Hotel and write his book, as I sat and began my sixth 1st draft manuscript this year, rolling that first sheet of paper into my virtual typewriter, I felt the big black crow of insanity alight on my shoulder.
After a couple of days of typing away on my latest draft, the kids playing in the next room. the Christmas tree was running into its own problems of being erected. I just knew I had to slam on the breaks and do something radical, which wasn’t easy. You see, I’m an all or nothing kinda gal. I’m either all in or all out, I don’t really do the grey area in the middle. It’s hard for me, I loose focus all too easy if don’t commit fully and give it all I’ve got. It has its advantages. If I set my mind to something I can usually make it happen, but it comes at a price, and that is that I shut everything else out of my world till I complete my task. But if I don’t stop and have fun and schedule in play dates for myself, my once fun work can get the better of me and I start becoming dull. And I know with my writing if I don’t take a break in-between projects I end up looking like this:
So I pried my gnarled fingers away from my iMac, iPad and iPhone, I had to shut it all off at least for one whole day and sever the cord that kept dragging my back to do the next writing related task.
Writing Related Tasks:
Writing my 2,000 words a day
Editing a manuscript
Reading the next book on writing
SEOing my site
Coming up with the next blog post
Checking social media
As much as I love this stuff normally, I knew I had to take a break and have some fun. I told my husband how I was feeling and he asked me when was the last time I danced? Hmmmm probably over a week ago, I thought. Then thoughts of Christmas loomed over me knowing that I have a lot of work ahead of me in the coming weeks, so that Santa can show up for our five kids! I was starting to crumble under the pressure of it all.
Time to Relax
Not wanting to just swap one task for another, I decided to set up my pottery wheel in the garage that’s been collecting dust for months, and at least set down my writing for four days to give my creative self a different outlet!
As I sat behind my potter’s wheel and felt the clay begin to mold beneath my fingers, I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy at first. As I wrangled with that mud, trying to center it, doubt started to creep in around the edges. As I wrestled with the clay in front of me and the idea of getting back to my real work. I kept coming back to it day after day, and eventually I started to sneak glimpses of the peace I was seeking. When the clay finally complied and slipped through my fingers effortlessly, I let out a long low sigh as my wheel began to sing to me. Relaxation seeped in and the pressure began to ease.
I have decided to take my foot of the gas a little, to allow space for my other creative pursuits that feed my soul in different ways. This ultimately can only help my writing, so that I can bring a more playful and creative spirit back to the page. And I definitely know I have to take breaks between drafts. I already had this as one of my writing rules knowing that I need a break between projects, but I broke it anyway, knowing I had one more draft to complete by December 31st. That was a mistake, because instead of lessening the pressure I was feeling, it was only increasing. I still plan to ‘do my best’ and finish my manuscript, trusting that by taking a few days off, I will bring back my old fun-loving playful self and the work will be easier!
My goals for 2016 are going to look a little different, I plan to make sure there is more play and less work!
I would really love to hear from you this week, seriously, I need to! What do you do for fun? How do you change things up? What do you do to kick back and relax? What’s your work / play balance like?
I’d love to know, please share your stories, suggestions and ideas in the comment box below!
Oh and don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of Serafina and the Black Cloak
What Do You Do to Relax?
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I can so relate – you have five kids? – I’m the youngest of five. We have stories to tell so they grab us and won’t let go, even when we are going – I know…. I must go out with Ollie three times a day so that is one break, lunch is another, a morning shower is another, let’s see, what else, oh, yeah, I do go food shopping on occasion, and there is, there is, there is, there is, there is — JACK, settle down now. Phew, that was close. Well, I do have to eat and take care of other bodily functions, and there is my dog, and there is, there is, there is, there is……………………………………………..
Lol James, I think we writers all have at least a little bit of Jack in us. You’re lucky to have Ollie to keep you straight and to drag you outside when you’ve spent too long writing!
Oh, how I know Jack so well. I am an all or nothing kind of gal, too. This is why writing ONLY 300 or 1000 or 2000 words a day frustrates me and why I had such a hard time this year with NaNoWriMo. I want to write until I feel I’ve come to a good stopping point, and that hardly happens unless I have written all day. I think the reason I do this is because I’m a perfectionist and my own worst critic. If I slack up, then forget about it. I’m done. Time to move on to something else. I’m all in or all out. Don’t give me that moderation crap. I want to do it or go do something else with as much fervor. My husband is sooooo l-a-i-d back. He doesn’t understand when my head begins to spin around and that crazed look comes in my eyes that I NEED to be able to do this or that without interruption or breaks. Of course, he is also the opposite and quite undisciplined and so meeting in the middle is a challenge for both of us. I know I need to pick up my guitar, paints and sketch pencils more often. Music and visual art sooth me and help me relax. Great blog, SK. It’s good to be reminded what is important!
Yes Kim, you’re so right! The visual arts and also the tactile arts help me to get out of myself, so that I can embrace that which is around me better. By switching things up I can enjoy all realms of life, as someone who loves both story and being up to my elbows in goo 😉
I saw a Jack Nicholson meme this week and saved it on my phone. Same face, with the words, “When people come at you rude as hell, not realizing you can reach level 100 of crazy.” I saved it because I have personal space issues and when others put their hands on me or crowd me, like they were doing at work last week, I get a little twitchy. Lol
Lol Kim, I looked at a number of Jack Nicholson shots for this blog, this one resonated with me the most. To me it says you poor innocent human being, you have no clue do you, you may think this is calm, this is not calm 😉
Love it! I think we can all relate. “All work” seems to be what we all know best. When I need a break, I turn to nature photography. I go out for long nature walks, or I stalk the birds and chipmunks in my own back yard, and I take about a gazillion photos. When I finish taking them, and editing them and sharing them on Facebook, I am ready to get back to writing.
Margaret, this is great! Getting outside is definitely a wonderful idea, just being in nature can be enough to awaken the senses and allow us to breathe more deeply.
Excellent post and something I’ve always been bad at. I’m really bad about completely unplugging, myself. I have a hard time with the concept of “office hours” as a writer, something I’ve been trying to reframe in my life. This is mainly because…well simply, I’m weird (we’re all a little weird, I know) and I’m often driven to be productive at the WORST possible times, like when I’m supposed to be recovering from surgery or letting my arthritis riddled hands rest, always seem to be the times I MUST work on my writing this moment. It’s been my bizarre counter measure to things when I’m not feeling well.
This post really just reillustrates the face that sometimes, you need to take a *real* break. For me, reading is one of the key ways to help me unwind (Harry Potter makes everything better), but I too have a goal for next year very similar to yours about more play and less work. I am an artistic person that hasn’t had an art day in far too long. There’s always an excuse that I could be writing and moving somewhere in my career instead of drawing what will probably be something I rip up and burn, however, I’m trying to correct myself of this. I LOVE to craft as well, and both art and crafts are more things I plan to do as my break in between writing, plus, I enjoy making things and being productive, even on my off time. Thanks for the post, SK! 🙂
Reading is a great escape and Harry Potter definitely does make everything better!
‘I am an artistic person that hasn’t had an art day in far too long.’ I hear you DMG, there’s nothing sadder than not touching our art in a long time, I think it makes us all crumbly inside 😉 We need to be firing on all cylinders and art definitely lights up even more areas of the brain, which I think makes us better writers!
Thanks so much for sharing!
Ha! Gotta love Jack! I teach, so sometimes my writing is the exact thing I do for fun! When I’m not lesson planning and grading and reading for school, I enjoy writing for pleasure. The problem? That October Platform Challenge got me into a writing rhythm, and it seems that my writing time can take away from my teacher time or my Mom time or my household organizer time or my daughter time or my exercise time or— well, you get it. Writing is becoming another responsibility, and I don’t like to think of it that way. I need to find a balance, and this post got me wondering about “fun.” If I’m honest, I DO need to take a break from writing and from all of those responsibilities that demand my presence 24/7. I love listening to local bands but don’t get out nearly as often as I should. I’m feeling a girls’ night coming up… thanks, S.K.!
I love music, for me it is one thing in this world that can take me away from my currant circumstances and transport me into a magical realm! I love to dance, sometimes I throw on some music and get up and move when I’m feeling stuck in my writing or I’m about to write an epic battle scene and I need to get my energy up.
Music is a wonderful outlet and combined with a girls night out, sounds like a great way to take a break!
Thanks so much for commenting Geralyn!
I totally relate — I tend to be an all or nothing gal myself!
I used to draw and paint as a secondary creative outlet, and it was really effective. I haven’t drawn in a long time, though. I think now I tend to turn to music, poetry, and sometimes photography. They exercise a different part of the brain and help me get out of a creative funk, usually.
Maybe I should start drawing again? (I’m a little discouraged because my drawing has gotten sooooo bad in the last several years!)
I hear you Randi, If you don’t use it, you lose it, right? My 15-year-old daughter started drawing seriously about a year ago, she was ok at first, but now she draws a little everyday and is fairly committed, her art looks wonderful and I am completely shocked by how much she has improved in only one year!
I love all those outlets you have for your creativity, I’m especially drawn to music. I think also when we turn to art, an even more playful fun-loving part of ourselves shows up!
Though the important thing is to just to have fun with it, knowing that this is its purpose, rather than turning it into another item on our to-do-list we have to perfect! I’m a perfectionist, so I have to watch out for this one, even when it comes to something that is meant to be fun, like playing with clay, I have to watch that I don’t start getting too serious or else I rob myself of the delight of play!
Kim, you and must be twins, cause I’m exactly the same way.
I’m a messed up OCD Perfectionist that hates multi-tasking. Very much like you SK, I’m either all in or all out. Its frustrating sometimes – sometimes more than sometimes. When I need to take a break, I do something around the house that needs doing – I’m a MacGyver so I fix stuff that needs fixing, and OCD so I clean, declutter, and organize.
It’s hard for me to relax if stuff is out of place – that includes my cranium. LOL.
In fact, I’m home sick today, and catching up on all the blog posts, but looking around my office, I feel an overwhelming need to organize this place.
But, beyond all that, I pre-schedule vacations (partly cause work requires me to) so the wife and I have something to look forward to and I’m forced to disconnect and get out of my zone. Speaking of that: Caribbean cruise in 3 weeks!!
I know what you mean about stuff being out of place, before I sit down to write each day I have to sort and organize my writing space, or else I can’t focus. It’s like a little ritual of mine I do every morning before I start writing. That and getting a cup of tea.
Caribbean cruise in 3 weeks, well come on already, sign me up for that!
Thanks for sharing S.C. and for making me completely jealous 😉
A wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your feelings so honestly and openly. I think that’s how we know that we are writers. When something doesn’t get out of our mind and keeps nagging us to let it out of our system and share with others as well. I admire your patience. Pottery is not easy to make, hence I have never even tried it myself. Kudos to you.
Thanks for your lovely comments, Majida, I appreciate your input! Yes pottery can be difficult, but in those moments where it becomes effortless, there’s nothing quite like it!