As an author, I often forget that there’s such a thing as Real Life. I get caught up in my writing, editing and polishing off each of my stories, to make them presentable for publishing; I get lost in the characters, the lives and the dramas that I come up with, write and have to make sense.
This year, just this past two months or so, I noticed that I was pushing myself too hard. I don’t normally like to take time off; if I’m not writing or editing, then I’m reading or thinking up my next story. Sometimes, when I’ve got a block on reading or writer’s block, I end up flitting between stories – just reading past notes, reading my plans for future stories or reading what’s already been written for an old story – in an attempt to re-connect with my own writing.
I did a lot of that this year. All of the above. Book after book has passed over my screen, my Kindle and my notebooks. Some are unfinished, because I realised that I’d burned out. I’d been doing book after book, one after the other, non-stop, without a break. I was overtired, cranky and had reached a block where I couldn’t write or read another book.
I took two weeks off; to organise my hard drive and re-read an old favourite series. It worked. I began sleeping better, my mood improved and I realised that I needed that break, to remember what was important. I left the house more often and was able to better organise myself for Christmas, because I didn’t worry so much about being in front of my computer all the time. I even rediscovered my love of reading paperback books, over e-books.
Because of nerve damage in my hands, reading a paperback is uncomfortable, but when I risked it, I began to realise that reading from the paperback was probably 90% of the cause of my better nights sleep. I wasn’t on the Kindle for over an hour, reading my e-books, instead. I’ll admit, though, that I was one of those people who didn’t really see how reading from a Kindle for any length of time before bed (unless excessive hours) could affect your sleep. But now I know. It actually does make a difference to read a paperback instead – you don’t have to give up reading before bed, completely, just the format of the book you’re reading.
With this came a few other revelations: I miss paperbacks. I don’t have to be online all the time. I don’t have to write 24 hours a day, just to be considered an author. I don’t have to push myself to exhaustion, just to keep up with my to do list. A to do list can wait a few more days, if it’s best for your health.
Thanks to this, I’ve put together a new plan of attack for 2016. I’ll be reading more, writing more and publishing less, as I catch up on all the half-finished projects that are waiting for attention. But I won’t be killing myself to do it. I won’t put Real Life aside, just to make time for writing or editing. I won’t sacrifice my sleep, health or anything else, just to keep up with demands. It might mean that I don’t do as much publishing or writing as I’d like, but it does mean that I’ll be happier and I’m pretty sure that will help with everything else.