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Keeping Motivated Over the Semester Break

The question at the beginning of every semester break is how much writing you’ll be doing in relation to how much you’ve promised yourself you’ll do. Lucky for me, I’m a teacher, so I’m also out on a two-week Christmas break, meaning I’ve gone from being insanely busy to wonderfully idle. For the next couple weeks, I’ll actually have extended periods of free time instead of bits of stolen writing moments between work and school, grading papers and running errands. This past Friday, after I entered my last student’s grade, I went home thinking that this whole two weeks stretched before me was going to be an oasis of time that I was going to use to jump start my thesis and just write and write and WRITE!

Then I got home and took a four hour nap.

And then I discovered The Tudors. It’s on Netflix, and it is SOOOO good. Passionate liaisons, warring factions, political scheming, tears, breathtaking narcissism, heaving bosoms, betrayal, religious unrest—not entirely different from the antics that occur behind the scenes of your standard MFA program. There are three seasons of this wondrous show that I need to get through, each consisting of ten one hour episodes: 1800 minutes of Renaissance fun. I’ve already watched the first nine episodes, and Henry VIII is still married to the first of his six wives. Clearly I’ve got a ways to go, but I’ve already squandered a good portion of my free time on the couch, drooling over Henry Cavill (if you don’t know who he is, look him up: trust me, it’s worth it) and gleefully awaiting the beheading of Anne Boleyn. I knew I was kind of a dork, but aren’t Renaissance buffs on a whole new plane of nerd-dom? Years from now, when I find myself working not as a writer but as a juggler at the Bristol Renaissance Faire near the Illinois-Wisconsin border, will I be able to trace what went wrong back to this very Christmas break?

Oh, I’ve been doing other things, too: hanging out with my family and friends, eating Christmas cookies, drinking wine, sleeping, looking at the garbage and deciding whether to take it out. And yes, I’ve even written a bit. A very little bit. But that’s all going to change tomorrow. Jonathan Franzen says that no great fiction can be created in a work space that has internet access, and taking advice from a guy who knows a thing or two about writing, tomorrow I am going to impose a two-hour Tudors limit on myself and disable the internet until I crank out at least 2,000 words.

But what’s that other quote from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII? Ah yes, I remember now:“some come to take their ease/And sleep an act or two” (5.5.85).

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