On Not Writing: Trying Not to Feel Guilty for Taking Days Off

In which I am the 1,459,476,874,686th person to take this picture in San Francisco.

After so many years at my day jobs, I was finally able to take my birthday off (January 22nd), so I decided to give myself a nice long four-day weekend.  We both had that Thursday off, so we decided to go out and about and have fun.  We hit a few of our favorite spots (bookstores, a yarn store, our local sushi boat restaurant) as well as visit a few new ones (Alamo Square, Bi-Rite Creamery and Brenda’s Meat & Three on Divisadero).  We even watched some anime that evening.  All in all it was a nice relaxing day, and the weather was perfect for it.  I spent most of Friday afternoon in the dusty dollar bins of Amoeba Records as a birthday present to myself. Yesterday we went to see a Tom Stoppard play (one of my favorite writers) and went out for dinner afterwards.  And today has been for cleaning and shopping.  Only now, at 3pm on Sunday, am I finally making an attempt to get some writing done.

Aside from a few blog posts and one day of daily words, my output these past few days has been pathetic.

Thing is, I hardly made an attempt.  There were a few moments there where I felt the pull of my daily words or my personal journal, but I chose against it.  It wasn’t a decision made out of being lazy–it was one made on purpose.  This was a way for me to remind myself that it’s okay to take a day off every now and again.  Even if there’s work to be done, sometimes it’s better to stop and smell the roses instead.

We writers often pride ourselves on being able to write whenever and wherever and for ridiculously long bursts at that, but we’re also our own worst enemies when it comes to deciding not to write.  Sometimes we must because of deadlines, or because it’s the only way to get any work done at all, but other times we don’t know when to quit for the day.  Yes, we could be out there watching a football game or walking around the neighborhood, or even sitting on our butts for six hours playing video games, but too often we deny ourselves that moment of entertainment.  Every moment without pen in hand or fingers on keyboard is a moment wasted.

That bit of guilt is still there, days later.  I only managed the daily words on Friday, breaking a 23-day streak, and I haven’t written in my journal since Wednesday.  I didn’t write any new words for Walk in Silence, but I did reread a few passages just to remind myself where I was.  The only thing I’ve done that remotely involves writing lately is read Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style as part of my self-assigned homework.  After years of avoiding active study of style manuals and books on how to write well (caused by a tenth grade English teacher who tried to teach me how to analyze prose within an inch of its life), I thought it was high time to face that demon once and for all.

I know I’m still going to feel guilty that I squandered all these days off and broke that streak, but life goes on.  I truly enjoyed the days off.  I got errands done that needed doing.  I let myself spend a bit of coin on one of my favorite hobbies.  I shot some pretty decent photos of the local scenery.  And I got to spend some serious facetime with my wife, who usually finds me hiding up back in Spare Oom instead, nose at the grindstone.

Besides, my writing time will be back to normal come tomorrow.

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