I wrote a couple weeks ago about how I was filling my time in between this draft and the inevitable rewrites to follow. I expected it to be gruesome. Rest can be a phantom to the mind of a writer. Thinking like a writer is pretty hard to turn off. It bubbles within your subconscious even when you are trying to just watch The Avengers and eat some Sour Patch Kids. The brain of a writer is constantly searching, and it will keep you in a wandering bliss of never-ending rewrites if you let it.
Right before I took my break I was certain that the story was good enough to take the next step, but time away proved me wrong. I received some feedback from an early reader friend. She loved it, but she felt it could be improved. My first reaction was sort of adolescent. I felt like firing back with, Well, I rubber your glue, or some sort of nonsense like that. Instead, I took a breath and reread her comments again. This time I remembered that she was a good reader, and she was also being really gentle. She didn’t tear it apart (as an editor would) she just thought there were kinks.
I took more of a break. I decided that I needed to wait to act. I needed to stew a bit in my dissatisfaction. Every writer wants immediate, glowing reviews. We want our readers to pitch their response at us with such fervor we bend over backwards. They may, or some may, and those who do will be the ones who come to your book signings and follow your blog just to bask in the words of the one who created for them characters they wanted to live with. My friend found a character like that in my story, and this was the greatest compliment she could have given me.
I waited. Watched some more movies and tried to read some more books. Reading was hard. Reading just made me want to write. I am pretty susceptible to the power of suggestion. Someone talks about cheese, my mouth-waters for brie. Someone mentions coffee, I suddenly feel sleepy. I read beautiful writing, I need to put some words together. It’s a viscous and inconvenient truth. So I tried another movie. Another superhero movie. Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring the brother of the guy who plays Gale. The way beefier, kind of shockingly studly brother of the sort of boring guy who plays Gale. Why Thor? It was on Netflix streaming and I’m on a kick from The Avengers. Stop judging me.
Thor was the answer. (Maybe because for two hours I wasn’t thinking about holes in plot or prose, but was drooling over a pretty, pretty boy.) I don’t know why, but something clicked, and once it did, I knew I could start writing again. But I am not yet rewriting. This work will not be seen (or not in this form anyway), but it is work that I have needed to do and never seen a way to begin. It is work that changes how I see things. This work also makes a few sections of the book complete scrap.
Taking a break means letting your mind just be free. Stop writing in your head when your on the subway. Stop relating everything you experience to the plot of your book. Stop looking for answers in other writers work. Stop pretending to listen to your friends when really diagraming their sentences in your head. All these things are the crutches of a writer, and we lean on them to get through the time when we aren’t actually tapping out words. But sometimes, flopping on the couch with a glass of wine in the afternoon and watching a movie is the medicine your overworked writing brain needs. This advice goes for mothers, and students, and working professionals who live on their cell phones. Shit clears when you let it. Stop worrying you’ll lose it if you check out for a few days. Chances are, you may actually find it.