Risk Day 13: Let My Artist Off the Hook

Everyone has those days. Even if you love your job, you still have those days when you just can’t find the oomph needed to get through the work you had planned.

I find this especially difficult if you are an artist. I dealt with it as an actor and now I’m dealing with it as a writer. The questions that seems to crop up for artists, especially unpaid ones like myself, is “How long can I keep this up?” and “Do I really have what it takes to do this?” Almost as though giving yourself some time off means that your not dedicated to your art.

Switching careers has only made this aspect worse. At least when I was working as actor, I had an excuse. I could convince myself that I didn’t need to work because I didn’t have rehearsal that night or an audition. But writing is so much worse. First of all you have to be self motivated. Unless you are on a deadline with a publisher, you basically have to create the work you want to do and then, well, do it. Secondly you have to contend with all of the stories of people who have stayed up all night drinking coffee and smoking packs of cigarettes while they completed their novel. And don’t get me started on the authors who talk about it being just an okay day because they only worked for 6 hours straight rather than the 8 they planned.

I have fantasies where I am that kind of writer. The kind who can lock myself in a room for 8 hours and just tap, tap, tap away. I can see plates of half eaten pizza and bowls of melted ice cream strewn around the room, a dirty coffee pot and an empty box of filters. In it I’m a machine, putting out chapter after chapter as the clock clicks further and further into the night.

But, alas, I am not said writer. I do keep a schedule for myself and ever since my realization last week, I’ve kept up with goals I have set. I still do devote time each week to working on my craft as well as the business. But I am not the kind of person who can work non-stop like that. I need breaks. Quite often I need to take a nap in the afternoon rather than scribble out a short story. And I don’t usually allow that. Rather I guilt myself for not being more dedicated or motivated.

Today was different. My husband was sick, so I was a little distracted by the seemingly endless stream of explosions and dramatic music coming from the action movies pouring out of our TV. And I was really, really tired. So about halfway through the day and only a little bit into my work, I decided to lay on the couch with him and have naptime. I decided that if I woke up and wanted to continue working I would, but that if other things cropped up then so be it.

That little bit of release was all I needed. I was actually able to fall asleep (surprising under the stress I’ve been experiencing lately) and when I woke up I actually felt like working. I wanted to edit and read and research. I was so revved up that after dinner I picked up the publishing book I just got rather than vegging in front of the boob tube.

I’m too hard on myself as I suspect most of us are. But I’m beginning to see that if I treat myself with a little kindness, I’m better for it. And hopefully my work will be too.

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