Guest Post: On the Importance of (Mental) Vacations

Hey everyone! I asked Rose Kingsley over at the fabulous Shylock Books if she would write a writerly themed post for The Darcy Review. We had been discussing her most recent novel foray, and her increasing frustrations with the project; I then suggested (read: ordered)  a month long writing hiatus. Here are her thoughts on a much needed mental vacation.

Project length: 2 years, 3 months and counting.
Pages written: 1,000+, including notebooks, napkins scribbled on, card applications, and receipt papers.
Rewrites and edits: 4.
Vacations since beginning project: 0.
Brain Cells left: 0.

I'm not a stranger to the hard work of writing. I began writing full-time in the early summer of 2003, sometimes for five minutes or up to five hours per day. My first manuscript was four-hundred hand-written pages long, and was finished when I was still considered a minor. My second manuscript, was three-hundred pages long and finished in six months.

All easy compared to this one.

Flashback to a little over a month ago.

I was pouring blood, sweat, and tears (almost literally) into the current manuscript. I had gone through rewrites, drafts, edits, line edits, developed a series and single novel outline. For nine months... Needless to say it had become difficult to attempt basic functions such as speaking in coherent sentences or remembering the words to my favorite Beatles songs.

Lorelei Darcy, co-conspirator, book reviewer, and writer, had heard of my woes and weathered the flurry of emails consisting of, “Is this party scene too much? Does the main character seem too American to be Irish? Is the plot too complicated? Do you even like the main character? MY BRAIN IS FRIED, IS THIS BAD GUY PREDICTABLE?!!!”

Yes. It was bad.

She calmly suggested, after the email flurries were becoming a blizzard, to...take a break.

A break?” I had said. “From...writing?” I couldn't wrap my head around the idea. If I wanted to finish this book before I was dead, I had to keep going! What was she thinking?

A break. A mental vacation,” she kept saying. “For one month. Beginning tomorrow.”

It was such a foreign concept at that point in my writing career, that it was just crazy enough for me to attempt. Thirty days. It was the longest time I had gone without writing anything for years.

Day One. Okay, I can do this.

Day Two. Was editing all I ever used my computer for? What is this Youtube they speak of?

Day Thirteen. !*&9@&^$(#@*&!!! Where did I hide the paper and pens?!

Around Day Eighteen I began to ease into the non-writing routine. I hadn't realized how burned out I had become working on this manuscript day in and day out. It had consumed my every thought, my every action---all to further the manuscript that had nearly driven me crazy. I had stopped seeing the world outside my window, forgotten what it felt like to be with friends. I had given everything I had into the manuscript that I eventually felt empty. I had been running on empty for so long that it showed in the writing. I had forced the words to come out, and it showed tremendously. What I had worked to make perfect was...not.

The thirty days I had spent on a “mental vacation” (not a real one yet, it's February, people!) had been more beneficial than any research or plot development thus far. I'm calmer, and able to concentrate on more than just the manuscript. I've reestablished relationships that had fallen to the wayside in my fervor to write, write, write. These days, I've made time for things I love like embroidering hippie tote bags, doing photo shoots, tap dancing, and learning the entire Beatles catalog on guitar.

I don't look back on this mental vacation as one month of writing/editing lost, but something that forced me to re-examine why I wrote. I love exploring what the world has in it, and writing is the perfect way to do that without requiring a passport. I just needed to nearly drop from exhaustion in order to see what I had been missing, right outside my window.

The robins returned today. Spring is here...

Thanks for sharing, Rose! I need a little vacation myself...both a mental one AND a real one!

Be sure to check out Shylock Books, and most especially, the Weekly Novel Writing Inspiration. There are always so many beautiful pictures!

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