I'm a pretty patient person, being an archaeologist by training. You've gotta be to enjoy picking through hundreds of shards of pottery or glass or brick with a pair of tweezers. But while I'd like to think this extends to my driving, well... it probably doesn't. Okay, it really doesn't.
I concede, I get a little frustrated with peak hour traffic. Driving to and from work in the morning and afternoon, if I'm in a 60km/h zone, I want to be going at sixty. What is WITH these people driving at forty? Don't they have anywhere to BE? It's not like there's an actual traffic jam, it's like they forgot to wake up this morning! Just trundle, trundle, trundle. Seriously, people! MOVE!
I was cursing the driver in front of me yesterday when I had a bit of a zen moment about it all, and I realised it's not the traffic jam that frustrates me. It's the thwarting of my self-imposed desire to go at full speed. Self-imposed is the key word there. There's nothing I can do to fix the traffic- the only thing I *can* fix is my own attitude towards it.
As if it was some sort of sign, as I was in the middle of this epiphany, my favourite song of the moment, which is by now very closely linked with my thought process about my novel, came on the radio. I haven't heard it for weeks, and all of a sudden there it was.
I took a deep breath. I took my foot off the gas and gave the car in front of me a generous three more inches of distance. And I remembered that once upon a time, not so many months ago, I used to see my time in the car as a very good thing. It was thinking time. I went as slow as the traffic made me go, I didn't worry about it at all, and I was incredibly productive at working through sticky points in my plotting and characterisation. I was getting home and scribbling out new plot ideas, then I was going back to those later in the evening and writing hundreds of words.
These days? Life has never been so frantic, with more days at work, more responsibility, more charity commitments, and more demands from my two-year-old. I'm not thinking about writing at the moment. Like Rachel, it's off my radar. Something had to give, and that was it. But I'm not going to look at it as writer's block.
The point of all the above traffic discussion is that I realised I had my foot on the gas when it came to my writing, too. They say you should write every day, or you risk falling into the black hole in which Rach and I are both hanging out at the moment. But for me, that determination to fit it in, to shove it in whatever tiny space there was left in my day, was becoming so much pressure that the writing was suffering, and I wasn't enjoying it as much.
The thing is, I take breaks from my day job. I had a whole wonderful month off over Christmas, and I needed it. Sometimes, I need a break from this writing job, too. If I'm going to treat it as a career, that's not optional. The breaks have to happen, or the burnout comes along instead.
So. I'm giving myself permission to ease off the gas when it comes to my writing, and I'm not going to feel guilty about it. I'm going to take it slow again, enjoy the ability to relax, and I know that in very short order, life will settle down a little, and I'll be back to my best. In the meantime, I have plenty of time to ponder and muse and reconnect with my characters and their world on my long morning and afternoon commutes, and permission from myself to take little steps again instead of writing twenty or thirty thousand words a month and changing my core plot every few weeks. I predict I'll be much saner, and that my story will be much better for it, in the end.
So, tell me- how do you balance the stresses of work, life and writing? And do you write every day? If not, how do you keep it together?