06 April 2009

Break Time

Just a little announcement to let you all know that Bluebird Works will be closed for the week of April 13th. I'm happy to say I'll be taking a vacation.

My little break from work and blogging has led me to think about my writing process, which involves a certain amount of self-imposed break time.  Taking a break from creative work is just as important as doing the work itself — allowing ourselves time away from a project enables us to come back with a different perspective, fresh eyes, and new ideas.

Today, for instance, I've been faced with editing a particularly thorny project.  In between my reading and note-taking and line editing, I have also accomplished the following:

1. Talked to my sister on the phone
2. Watched a forensic show about serial killers
3. Checked up on a friend whose grandfather just passed away
4. Downloaded some fantastic new music
5. Watched the story of Raymond Burr on the Biography Channel (when he wasn't acting, he hybridized orchids, bred Portuguese Water Dogs, owned part of an island in Fiji, and a vineyard in Napa.  Who knew?)
6. Gazed out the window at the torrents of rain washing down my street

Were any of these activities at all related to the manuscript I'm supposed to be editing? Nope. Were they all necessary? Abso-freakin-lutely. Without the distractions, I would have immersed myself in the manuscript to the point where it would have started feeling like forced labor.  Once I start getting that feeling, I know it's time to step away for a little while, whether it's to clear my head entirely or fill it with something completely unrelated. 

If we could just make peace with the fact that watching a "Law & Order" rerun, seeing what your friends are up to on Facebook, going for a run, taking a nap, rubbing your cat's belly, or just staring out into space, are all an inherent part of the creative process, we'd spend more time feeling good and on-track and less time feeling guilty and lazy.

Recently, I started watching "The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency," and among many other things, I've fallen in love with the leisurely pace of the show.  One of my favorite scenes from the premiere episode is when Grace Makutsi insinuates that Precious hasn't been doing any work all afternoon.  Precious proudly informs her secretary that she's been working very hard, because she's been thinking, and thinking is a detective's most important job.  In fact, Precious most often comes upon the solution to the crime at hand while she's in the middle of thinking about something else.

We are, in many ways, like detectives. In writing (or editing) our stories, in figuring out who our characters are and why they do what they do, we are creating and solving our own mysteries.  As long as we ultimately crack the case, we should appreciate whatever we did (or didn't do) to get there. 

P.S. I also took a break today and wrote this blog. No regrets!


  1. I have a very wise (and Canadian) colleague who was asked if a high school student could job shadow her at her job in editorial. She decided she couldn't do it,really, since the job is mostly thinking with a little reading and scribbling thrown in and it creeped her out to think of a kid just watching her think for eight hours.

  2. You gotta love Mma Ramotswe. I'm really enjoying it as well. I liked what she said about why people sometimes went to detectives last week...they knew the truth, but needed someone to help them live with it?

    Like to see some more character development w/Mma Makutsi, however. She still seems like a caricature right now.