The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia
12 February 2010
Writers don't get snow days
I am not prone to jealousy, but I felt more than a touch of envy this week as snow fell on much of the country, and friends got day after day off. I wasn't so much jealous that they could enjoy the unmatched pleasure of seeing a pristine blanket of snow, blue-white and sparkling under the sun, and smell the crisp fresh-snow scent. No, it was their unexpected gift of days off with obligations put on hold, the gift of time to read or daydream or catch up on sleep or some chores, time to empty the mind of everything that weighs on it and focus on something—making a quilt, baking bread, mapping out a new story or novel.
Of course, we writers can give ourselves a snow day whenever we want, at least in theory, and it's good for us to set aside time to clear our heads and fill the well. In practice, though, I find it almost impossible to take a snow day. Week after week, my paying work and other obligations gobble up not only my fiction-writing days but also my evenings and weekends. Some of you have talked about similar difficulties on your own blogs.
Yesterday, I took a radical step: I asked one of my clients, my biggest one, for a six-month leave of absence. Once I turn in my current assignment on 1 March, I'll have space in my life for some snow days. First priority: Rest. I'm tired of being tired every day. I need to rejuvenate before I can be creative again.
Second priority: Do chores. A home should be peaceful and welcoming, but the papers and piles of books I have strewn about stress both me and my long-suffering husband and disrupt my creativity by their constant distraction and by making it hard to find story notes, background materials, and everything else.
Third priority: Once I have a clear head and a clear workspace, be creative again. Read. Write down story and book ideas on a notepad. Research ideas. Revise stories I've received comments on and send them out. Finish stories I've started and start new stories. Start a book. Get together with other writers. Make fiction my first priority again.
I have the luxury of taking a leave from my biggest client because my father left me a small inheritance. But I was too tired to realize it. It took the snow storms of the past two weeks and my desire for some snow days to prod me to search for ways to have some.
Is your writing getting short shrift in your life? Perhaps it's time to brainstorm ways you can work in some snow days. Like me, you may be surprised what you come up with.
Thank you, Dad, for everything. Two years and I still miss you terribly. Edward Arthur Roberts, 24 January 1930–12 February 2008.
The blog Allison's Attic will be giving away a copy of Linda Weaver Clarke's Melinda and the Wild West. Enter by February 14. (I interviewed Linda here.)
Other friends, if anyone features your book at their blog, please feel free to send me an email. I'll put a note about the interview, the review, or the give-away on my next blog post.