Fill the well, recharge, stop and smell the roses, they all mean the same thing: people need to take breaks from the stress and rush of their lives. And this applies to creative people—including writers—even more. How can we expect our muse to help us if we never give her a vacation?
This was brought home to me recently when my arthritis/degenerative disk disease went into a major flare. The pain bothered me, but the worst thing was the length of time it went on. There I was, sitting propped in the recliner, thinking of the sixteen million things I needed to be doing and how far behind I was going to be when I did feel better. As I got more and more frustrated and irritable my poor husband must have done some suffering himself. At one point he gently told me, "You don’t know how to be sick." At first that made me angry. I’d been sick off and on my whole life. If anybody knew how to be sick, it was me. Later, though, it got me thinking. Why couldn’t I relax and take a break now and then? Even if I wasn't sick? Would the world really end if I asked somebody else to handle a chore? Did I have to read all my email? Would it be so horrible if I left something undone? Or if I said that horrible "no" word?
I knew studies have shown that workers are more productive when they have regular opportunities to relax and recharge. I’ve even experienced that truth in my own life. I knew pushing too hard didn’t really get me anywhere, and after a while would backfire on me. Like maybe cause an arthritis/DDD flare. It wasn’t easy, but I did eventually convince myself to relax a little. I watched some movies, I pulled out that poncho I was making for my granddaughter, I played with the dogs, and of course I read. Slowly I began to relax. It was more challenging than writing ten novels, but finally it did begin to sink in.
Spring cleaning is traditional, and this spring I invite you to join me in cleaning our lives of the things that prevent us from taking the breaks we need. I know it’s hard. Trust me, I struggle every day with the need to do just one more thing. But by letting go and enjoying the beauty and fun around us, we’ll be better writers—and people. Less irritable, less stressed, less likely to die an early death. And our family and friends will appreciate the fresher, calmer us.
My challenge to you is to make a list of things you love, but don’t think you have time for. Then, over the next week, make the time to do at least one or two. As the commercial said, "Try it, you’ll like it."