When Doing the Thing! means not doing the thing

Do the thingSometimes, doing the thing means not doing the thing. Sometimes, that’s one of the hardest things.

I don’t mean give up on the thing (No, no, never give up on the thing! As long as you want the thing, keep doing the thing!) I mean the just as hard and vital tasks of taking breaks and doing self-care.

This weekend (thanks to the miracle of advance post-scheduling) I am actually on vacation, away from keys and major writing, for three whole days. Which is probably going to be a little bit crazymaking because OH GOD THINGS TO DO.)

Without interference, I would probably work 20+ hours a day, between my day job and my writing. Certainly it’s what I did when I was in college and lived alone. Now, my partner, Ben, does his best to keep me on track. In between doing his own things he makes sure I sleep and that I eat dinner not in front of the computer screen and (usually) involving more than three-day-old pasta.

It can be really hard to take those breaks. There are so many Things to Do, and so little time, that I feel guilty spending minutes where I could be doing the thing, not doing the thing. (One of our characters in Starling, Paul, has definite workaholic tendencies. There’s a little bit of both Racheline and I in him.) But working, or trying to work, 20+ hours a day every day isn’t sustainable, and nobody can do the thing! when they haven’t eaten or slept or seen the sun in a week.

One of the worst things my brain does is guilt, and one of my ongoing challenges is giving myself permission to take those break and not beat myself up for it.

A decent way I’ve found to cope, at least on some days, is to make sure I give myself rewards for finishing things, whether that’s making myself a cup of tea and taking a walk after we hit submit on something, or like the BDSM piece we wrote this past week for fun in between massive edits slogs on the novels. Sometimes it’s reminding myself that if I take 20 minutes now to eat I’ll actually be way less cranky and will be able to finish this chapter. Sometimes none of it works.

But what I most have to remind myself is that — as obsessed as I am with using all time to its maximum efficiency — spending time and emotional energy to beat myself up is not actually an efficient use of resources. It’s the “work hard, play hard” thing, where play sometimes just means taking a goddamned nap. Which doesn’t always make it easy, but it’s a start.

So, what things do you need help taking a break from? How do you do self-care? How can we help with stopping the self-flagellation, even if it’s only an “No really, today’s thing is just gonna be taking a nap and eating food?”

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2 Responses to When Doing the Thing! means not doing the thing

  1. J.L. Douglas says:

    How can we help with stopping the self-flagellation

    I’d like to know this too! My “me time” from work is working out, which I then also overdo. I take one non-negotiable day-off from that each week, but I spend that day worrying about how I’m not writing enough.

    I guess at this point, my way of accepting Not Doing the Thing is to alternate days in which I don’t do certain things. A “day-off” just isn’t going to happen for me, if I am left to my own devices, although I certainly welcome advice from anyone with experience in relaxing!

    • erincmcrae says:

      Alternating days sounds really great solution to keep you fresh for different types of work! And for me at least, on days when words are hard, ticking stuff off the editing/blogging/marketing to-do list keeps me productive even if the story word counts aren’t increasing at all.

      I spent a chunk of Sunday afternoon sitting outside alternately looking at the gorgeous scenery and doing edits on a story from my phone, so complete sympathy from the land of what-is-a-day-off? But at least I was outside and there was scenery! To disconnect entirely I just have to pull the plug on the Internet, which is in itself really hard to do. Having a partner who really likes me and bugs me to get my face out of the computer is probably my saving grace. But also, I find that setting time aside in advance to do stuff other than writing both gives me a break to look forward to and also makes me feel less like I’m wasting time once I actually go to take a nap or a walk or whatever.

      Best of luck with doing the thing, and taking a break from the thing 😀

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