Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It's Okay, All Authors Have Off Days

There are few things more frustrating than when you're having an off day at the keyboard. Maybe you're about to hit word count, and you suddenly realize that you need to delete everything you did today because you went in the wrong direction. Maybe you can't focus because the day kept interrupting you, so by the time you sit down to work on your manuscript you're out of energy, and it's the middle of the night. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, if feels like you're pulling teeth. That are trying to bite your fingers off.

And your story is a tiger.
When this happens, there's something you need to do. You need to take a deep breath, hit that save button, and walk away. Because if you don't, you're going to hurt yourself.

Learn To Recognize (And Accept) Your Off Days

I reach for this metaphor a lot, but writing is a lot like working out. Some people are born with natural talent, and everyone can get better at it through practice and dedication. But, more importantly, if you strain yourself too hard, then you might pull something. Which is why it's important to recognize when your grip is slipping, or you're trying to do too much. Because if you don't, you're going to do more harm to yourself (and your manuscript) than good.

Always brace your wrist when throwing plot hooks.
Even if in normal circumstances you're capable of doing a five-mile run, or putting up a 200-pound set on the bench press, sometimes you can't. Maybe you tweaked your knee going down the stairs, or you have a bit of a chest cold, and it saps your energy. When that happens, you might only be able to do half your normal weight, or go half your normal distance. You might even find it more beneficial to take the day off, to rest and recuperate.

There's nothing wrong with that, and sometimes it's what you have to do to avoid getting a brain blowout. The key to remember, though, is that you have to be able to recognize when you aren't punching at the top of your game. And then, once you learn how to recognize that, you need to be able to take a breath, push back from the desk, and tell yourself, "Not today. Tomorrow, though, I'm going to smash this."

It's Both That Easy, And That Hard

On the one hand, walking away from a project seems like it should be the easiest thing in the world. But too often we get so wrapped up in what we're doing that it's hard to realize we should let go, step back, and get some perspective. Just like writing is a habit you have to develop, being able to recognize when you need give your brain a rest is also a habit.

Because if you aren't performing your best, your book is going to suffer. So make sure when you settle your fingers on the keys that you're ready, willing, and able to give it your best.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing article! Hopefully you all enjoyed it, and found something worth taking away from it. If you'd like to help support me and my blog, then stop on by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to leave a little bread in my jar. Everyone who donates more than $1 a month gets free stuff! Lastly, if you haven't followed me on Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter yet, now might be a good time to start.

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