Rhonda Browning White
We’re now fully immersed in the hectic, er, joyous and peaceful, holiday season: Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Yule, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Kwanzaa, Watch Night, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day . . . and the list goes on. We have shopping to complete, presents to wrap, trees to decorate, cookies to bake, parties to attend, dinners to host, football games to watch, and stories to write. What! Do you mean we’re supposed to find time to write over the holidays? Have you lost your mind?
That’s what I think each time I see a Facebook post, a blog entry, or a web article admonishing me to “Write Every Day!” Perhaps these reminders are popping up with increasing frequency in advance of the New Year’s Resolution craze. Or perhaps they’re showing up more often to drive me insane. Either way, I’m not falling for it.
You see, over my twelve-year career as a ghostwriter, professional editor, and author, I’ve kept a giant secret, but I’m now going to share it with you: I don’t write every day. Sometimes I go two or three days without writing. Sometimes I go a full week without penning more than a simple grocery list (which I usually leave at home, only to discover it’s missing when I reach the dairy aisle—is it heavy cream or half-and-half I need for that recipe?), and, believe it or not, my writing never suffers from the break.
In fact, it often improves.
How is this possible? For starters, you should know that I don’t believe in writer’s block. (I call it “writer’s laziness.”) Writing is a form of mental exercise, and, just like physical exercise, overdoing it can cause problems. The mind, like the body, needs time to rest and recharge. The best ways to recharge the writer’s brain are to read or to do something creative other than writing. Reading a great story—you can squeeze in a short story before bedtime, while sitting in the doc’s office, or waiting at the airport even on the most hectic days—or a writing craft book never fails to refill my writer’s well of ideas. Another prolific author shared with me that baking helps her put together scenes or chapters she’s struggling to work out in her mind. A poet friend paints gorgeous artwork between writing poems. Yet another author—a bestselling, award-winning author—told me he does some of his best writing while staring out the window or sitting on his porch for hours at a time, without touching a writing implement for days.
Downtime is necessary for some writers to regenerate the creative part of the mind, and never is downtime more necessary for me than during the holidays. I’ll admit to you, though, that when I’m not in front of my keyboard or notepad, I’m often still writing. The idea for this blog entry came to me today when rushing through the grocery store. And while watching a little girl in red tights, a green sweatshirt and a motorcycle helmet stand with her hands on her hips while her father pushed a stalled Harley through a store parking lot, I came up with a great idea for a story scene. Were my hands on the keyboard? Nope. Did I have a pen in hand? Nada. Was I writing? Yes, I was.
Tonight, when the house is quiet and the Christmas tree’s winking lights are reflecting on the wall outside my bedroom door, I’ll pick up the fabulous book of short stories I’m reading this week, and I’ll refill the writer’s well within my mind with strings of words that sparkle brighter than any light on my tree. And when the holidays are over, and my world has reached some measure of calm, I’ll again sit at my desk, and I’ll write.