I have a very bad habit of taking on too much at all times. Opportunity knocks and I always answer. Perhaps this is why opportunity, like a Jehovah’s Witness, keeps knocking.
The downsides to doing too much are pretty easy to spot. Burn out. Creatively draining yourself. Skipping out on the little things, like laundry or interacting with human beings on a semi-regular basis.
Like many writers, I am also a procrastinator, so in addition to doing too much, I also give myself too little time to do it in. Clearly, I must like the challenge; that, or I am not very intelligent and repeat the same obvious mistakes. So after blasting through nearly ten thousand words worth of novel-writing in one week, and following that up with writing a draft of full-length play in four days (ah, deadlines), I found myself drained of all words.
Unfortunately, because I take on too much, I cannot rest on my laurels and coast on the accomplishment for months at a time. I remember doing that years ago when I tried NaNoWriMo. I wrote a novel in a month, I told myself, and then I was too busy patting myself on the back to pick up a pen. Not this time, however, since every few weeks, I will have to scrounge up thousands more words on a novel, I will have to revise old works into submit-worthy plays and poems and short stories, and I will have to read and critique and maybe even create something new.
And so, I needed to refill the well, and quickly.
I took a weekend off and I didn’t write a word. Instead, I read. For fun, even. No critiquing, no trying to absorb technical details. In fact, it wasn’t even a particularly well-written or acclaimed book. But it was, just fantastic, to simply read, to just gorge myself on reading. That took me back to when I was a teenager, and would read an entire novel in an evening, and then pick up another one the next day, consuming book after book, a narrative-addict, staying up late to read, and then picking up a book before the sleep is out of my eyes and reading myself awake.
I will always, I think, take on too much. It’s a good thing, I believe, since I end up doing less than I intend but far more than I ever thought I could. I encourage people to take on too much.
But at the same time, what got you into this in the first place? What are those memories of reading and writing that absorbed you so much at the time that you didn’t want to do anything else?
Always remember to go back there.