Something that gets faced a lot in physical sports and activities is that line of “can I keep going on this pain/annoyance, or should I slow down to recover?” It is something I’ve struggled with in running when I up the ante, and it seems to translate to writing in different ways.
You know the days, slow, sluggish, your head is cloudy and you can’t get the picture right. There’s too much fuzz on your mental television and you can’t tune it in just right to see correctly. Maybe it’s just a bad day, or you’re out of sorts, but you still need to get your writing done for the day, and you do still want to make progress on something.
Except, you can’t. You’re stalled out mentally. So when do you keep pushing, to try and make something happen, and when do you call it a mental health day and walk away from it until you can see better?
When it becomes an all-out struggle, I stop, to breathe and try to calm down. It’s easy to get frustrated when you feel like you can’t get any details right. Likewise, it’s hard to get anything right when you’re flustered. I’ve had a BIG problem with this recently, and it’s the cause of a few month-long pause on a project I’ve been wanting to work on very badly.
Funks and grooves are easy to get into sometimes, when things have been thrown off, but the best thing to do sometimes is to wait until it feels okay. Do what you can to alleviate some frustration, whether it be outlining or getting fresh ideas for the scene, or rethinking what you’ve done so far. Don’t count yourself out completely.
Then there are times where you force yourself to finish it, no matter what, you have to get to the finish line. The point here is that you can go back and revise what you did. You can even re-write it, if you really feel like you have to, but if there’s a need for you to finish now, don’t worry about revision. Write. Come back to it later, look it over, you may yet like what you wrote when your head’s a bit more clear.
In some situations, forcing it to happen may make it worse. It can get you to put characters in situations you don’t like, or say things that aren’t true to their personalities, and the list goes on. Complications feed complications, and sometimes it’s easier to see what’s going wrong, and others can be harder to tell.
If it’s mild, try to do what you can, but you know your limits best. Don’t make something happen if it doesn’t feel right. It’s okay to take breaks. Up against a deadline? Pause, breathe, and go forward as you can.
If it’s severe, it’s better to reset your head. Wait for it. Take it slow.
What I hear a lot of is that taking rest days from an injury often deters training for a race. It’s the same in that, if you have a deadline with your publisher or a personal deadline to reach, having to stop creates a lot of stale chaos for you. Bury yourself in “homework:” if you can’t write, read, or watch a movie related to what you’re writing, or a television show. Something will come up. Something will spark.
Everything takes time, though. Pace yourself. Relax. Look at what’s going on and see what the best course of action is. Don’t panic, there’s a way. There always is.
-The Novice Wordsmith