I know I haven't been meeting your standards lately. My desk is always messy and I am pretty much relying on caffeinated beverages to stay awake long enough to do any writing. When I do write, I delete most of what I've done. I think you want me to say sorry for this. Or perhaps you think I need to make some excuses. I have excuses, but I also know that sometimes it is really important to give myself a break.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the process that I use when I am rewriting. I said that I manage 1000 words every day. Almost the same day that I posted that, the process I had outlined fell apart in my hands like a soggy biscuit. Sure, it's worked for me before, so it was natural to assume that it would work for me again. But I'm reminded of a quote I once saw on another writer's blog: You are not a tap. You cannot just turn it on and expect something to come out. There was a point not so long ago where I reached the absolute bottom of any energy reserve I had saved, and all I wanted to do when I wasn't at work was sleep and read. I felt ill, but I was in perfect health... I just couldn't face the page. I think every writer experiences this in their own way. The thought crosses my mind that this is the point at which, if I was going to give up completely, I could do it. Instead, I focussed on letting myself repair. I listened to my body, and it said it was tired, and it was a little scared that the six or seven years of hard work it had been putting into this book might come to nothing, and could it please have a week where it wasn't writing, or thinking, or talking about the novel.
I realise now that I've had breaks from the book before, but they've been active breaks, in which I would collect information in a little space in my mind for my book, and have thoughts like when I start writing my novel again I will... So I wasn't completely relaxed at all. This year and last year have been my first full time writing years since I decided on writing as my path. Which means I've now had more than 18 months of this, 18 months of hearing feedback from readers and even from people in the publishing industry that has been a mix of keep going, you're almost there, and also (dishearteningly) that perhaps this is my practise novel. Maybe it is my practise novel, but I love it, and I want to feel like I've done the best job I can with it. So I took last week off, and I am 7000 words behind schedule, and I just plain don't care. (Okay.... so I care a little.)
I have seen other writers despondent about their own work, work that I know to be of a higher standard of my own, and I feel for them, but I also take comfort in the knowledge that if those better than I can feel this way, then this is normal, and this too will pass. I am recognising the importance of taking care of myself, of going to yoga, and colouring my hair when I look at myself in the mirror and feel drab, and getting up every day and making an effort with what I put on my body, for it is far too easy to go back to bed when you stay in your pyjamas. I am learning the fine balance between treating my art as work, and keeping it a form of expression. I am learning who I am as a writer.
So I just wanted to say, Toughest Critic, thank you for pushing me to be my best, always, because I know you mean well, but please don't feel upset that I am learning when and how not to listen to you.
And please tell your fellows, the Critics who plague my friends and loved ones to go easy as well, because they're all doing better than fine in my eyes.
This post is dedicated to LA and KL with my love.